Microsoft targets kids with high-tech Barney doll

Microsoft's next big product isn't a scalable server application or a cutting-edge operating system, it's a purple dinosaur doll that talks. Yes, it's Barney.

Just when you thought you'd never hear the "I love you" song again, Microsoft has resuscitated Barney as an interactive, electronic stuffed animal that plays peek-a-boo, uses a computer, and watches Barney videos with your child. It's as sickening as it sounds.

Due on store shelves this month, the Microsoft Barney doll has a vocabulary of 2,000 words. His hands control 12 activities and his feet control 17 songs. He detects shapes and colors, can count, and can sing the ABC's. If you cover his eyes, he says, "I can't see you."

Impossible, you say? The $100 toy isn't a simple talking doll, but rather a sophisticated computer designed to make learning fun. CD-ROM and video sets designed for the toy weigh in at $60. It includes 2MB of ROM and a radio receiver that works off of battery power. When used with a CD-ROM, the doll helps children play computer games. With a video, it sings along and asks children to dance.

"It isn't just putting Barney on a motor and hearing him talk," said Microsoft vice president Rick Thompson, who promises other dolls with similar capabilities in the next few years. "It's a friend, and someone kids can learn with."

Will it sell? Probably. But it makes one wonder where Microsoft will get involved next

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