People are asking that question since Serotek elected to make its AFB Access Award winning product, SAToGo, available to all, in conjunction with The AIR Foundation, for no charge.
For the record, the answer is “No. We are not crazy. This makes good sense both from a humanitarian perspective and from a business perspective.”
Stop and think a minute. Does Google charge for using its search engine or for looking up a location on Google Maps? Does Microsoft charge for Internet Explorer? How about Firefox? And wasn’t it Netscape that broke open the Internet with a free browser?
In the long run Netscape lost the battle of the browsers but they completely changed the marketplace.
I think everyone out there understands the humanitarian reasons for making SAToGo available at no charge, but let me talk about the business reasons.
Before we made the free accessibility announcement the entire market for accessibility tools was a few hundred thousand people, worldwide. But there are more than 350 million blind people and a couple hundred million low vision people who would benefit from these tools. So in a very real sense the structure of the adaptive technology marketplace was such that it could never be more than a tiny niche market – a few thousand people fortunate enough to be subsidized by their government or some charity to purchase and be trained in complex accessibility tools.
When you’re a new company like Serotek an artificially restricted market is not only frustrating but debilitating. Even with the best tools available it is not possible to attract the capital to penetrate the market and claim your rightful share. The traditional vendors have a monopolistic stranglehold that virtually protects them from innovation. And who suffers? WE DO! Blind and low vision people suffer because they are left behind.
Our intent in giving away SAToGo is not to compete for the business that traditional screen readers are getting but to blow open the market and invite in millions more blind and low vision people. Our strategy is to say: “Hey this is no longer a private party for a few elite. Accessibility is for everyone, anytime, anywhere.”
So how will we make money? Well clearly we must make money or we will go out of business. We aren’t a charity and we aren’t subsidized by any fund. We survive on the sale of our products and services, pure and simple.
If you look at our Accessible Digital Lifestyle offering you can see that we have a very attractive suite of products for people who want a bit more than screen reader-like access. We anticipate that many SAToGo users will decide they want System Access Mobile and the SAM Net service. We anticipate many public and private institutions, organizations and businesses will want Remote Access Manager and/or Remote Incident Manager. We see schools that perhaps don’t want kids on the Internet, buying site licenses for System Access, confident that the kids have the same software at home that they have at school. Those are just a start.
We anticipate many, many new products that expand the accessible digital lifestyle to every facet of life. The fun of it is we no longer have to think small about a handful of possible users. We can think huge – every blind and low vision person in the world.
To us that makes very good business sense.
What do you think? Are we nuts?