Kiss LeapFrog, Get a Toad

LeapFrog Enterprises  (NYSE: LF  ) has been more of a frog than a leaper lately.

Shares of the electronic learning toy maker slipped 7% yesterday -- and continued to move lower today -- after an analyst downgrade.

BMO Capital Markets isn't impressed by the company's product line as we head into the holiday shopping season. BMO came across a few glitches in kicking the tries of LeapPad Ultra, the new $150 tablet that combines a vetted tablet experience with LeapFrog's signature learning games.

LeapFrog turned heads two years ago with the original LeapPad. The $99 tablet-like device became the hottest holiday layaway item at Wal-Mart by mid-November, and the device was a hot resale item on eBay fetching two to three times its retail price.

Last year's LeapPad 2 also fared reasonably well. 

This year's Ultra update features a larger screen and sweeter specs. It also introduces peer-to-peer play and offers Internet access via Wi-Fi. Sure, only approved kid-friendly sites can be visited, but Ultra becomes the first LeapFrog learning toy that can truly be called a tablet. 

BMO isn't convinced, lowering its rating from outperform to market perform as it slashes its price target from $15 to $10. 

It doesn't take long for word to get out that a product is buggy, and if Ultra's a flop, there's going to be a lot riding on LeapFrog's older catalog. 

Thankfully, the first wave of early adopter parents don't see it that way. The product has generated a reasonable 3.8 stars out of five through 88 customer reviews on Amazon.com. That's in the range of the 3.7 star rating for original LeapPad and the 4.0 for last year's LeapPad 2.

If we're going by the generally positive reviews from customers, LeapFrog may not fare as badly as BMO thinks. After all, BMO points out that there's unsustainable hype surrounding the Ultra's prospects this holiday shopping season. However, the stock price tells a different story. Shares of LeapFrog have surrendered more than a quarter of their value since peaking last month.

This will be a competitive holiday shopping season for cheap tablets. Amazon.com's (NASDAQ: AMZN  ) Kindle Fire is just a few bucks more, giving buyers a more complete tablet experience. Through the Kindle FreeTime feature, the entry-level tablet becomes a kid-friendly gadget.

We also can't dismiss Nintendo's (NASDAQOTH: NTDOY  ) bold move in rolling out the 2DS. The entry-level sibling to the popular 3DS handheld gaming console will hit the market next month at $129.

Ultra still has enough unique features and its parent-approved ecosystem of apps that progressively adapt as the user grows. LeapFrog is a great brand, and finding the stock in the single digits ahead of the telltale holiday shopping season has paid off for investors in the past.

BMO may not like LeapFrog here, but the still-growing maker of learning toys has burned naysayers before.

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