Santa's more than a much-anticipated but unseen yearly visitor at Alissa Owen's house. He's a good-natured nag.
"Loved the way you helped your younger brothers," he might tell Redd, 8, "but you need to remember to pick up your clothes." Or for Hardy, who's 6, "You're a good boy. But I'm still concerned there's too much tattle-taling."
The jolly old elf's also chimed in at least once on the question of a puppy, reminding the four little Owen boys, which also includes Ford, 4, and Henry, 1, that they won't be getting a puppy until Henry's potty trained.
He "communicates" with the boys through an application called Santa's Message that Owen, of Sandy, came up with for her iPhone. She and a collaborator in England who could write the needed code have jumped into the Apple iPhone "gold rush."
Santa's Message sells for $1.99 in the iPhone app store. And with it, moms and dads can take advantage of Santa's allure to help their kids figure out what's naughty and nice.
You pay the fee, download the application and then record little messages for your kids, to let them know Santa's really paying surprisingly close attention. It's an encourager of good, a discourager of bad — and a thrill for the little believers, she said.
The program translates your voice into Santa's deep, rich baritone, ready for delivery, with a picture of Old St. Nick on the phone screen.
Have a third-grader who is beginning to doubt? Santa can set him straight. "Scott, did you know that Santa knows you are hiding your dirty clothes in your closet?"
Owen, an attorney who's now a stay-at-home mom, came up with the concept and found the help she needed to make it reality. It went on sale in the iPhone apps store just six days after it was submitted.
Users can adjust Santa's voice a bit to please them. Owen prefers a deep baritone. You can make Santa sound a little older. It comes with "elf noises" in the background, if you want them.
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