Prices, Quality, Rumors
I don't have a really well formed theme for today's blog entry so Blind Confidential today will be kind of a stream of consciousness blabbering of thoughts going through my mind at the moment. I'll try to maintain some reasonable level of organization but no guarantees okay?
The High Prices of Access Technology
Recently, a good friend an old access technology hacker remarked to me over a meal about how sad it is that the majority of blind people in the world cannot afford screen readers. He specifically pointed out that such products are considerably more expensive than the computers they run on. While we agreed that the market as small, we found ourselves scratching our heads trying to find a different category of technology product where the prices have increased while the market for said product also grew.
Our conversation led me to pull my little T-Mobile DASH out of its carry case and to start contemplating what such a massively complex device would have cost 30 years ago when I first started programming professionally. This smart phone is tremendously more powerful than the mainframe on which I worked back in my Lincoln Savings days and it didn't cost over $1 million to purchase nor does it require an entire staff just to keep it running properly.
This leads me to remember a mistake I made in my article about Mobile Speak Smartphone and my cute new T-Mobile phone that I wrote the other day. I had forgotten that MSS sells for roughly $300 and not the $500 that Code Factory charges for its PDA cousin. Thus, at the maximum price for this particular phone, a copy of MSS and a Bluetooth keyboard comes to approximately 820 five dollars, a little more than a third the cost of a blind guy ghetto PDA.
I find that due to the near monopoly position held by JAWS that few agencies, training centers and other places people by or are given access technology products rarely even consider lower-cost alternatives. While I wrote here recently that to do my job, I NEED TO USE JAWS, many other users, however, use a computer primarily for Internet browsing, e-mail, instant messaging, word processing and a few other chores. The training centers and other access technology organizations should take a serious look at System Access and Freedom Box as it is highly probable that they can save a tremendous amount of money without taking a single feature their consumers actually use away from them.
In the last couple of days, I received a story from Blind News that John McCarty wrote for The Fred's Head Companion blog about a website that keeps track of prices for products of interest to people with vision impairment. I browse to the site and bookmarked it and comment if you're interested, you can read Michael's entire article athttp://fredsheadcompanion.blogspot.com/2006/12/bargains-for-blind.html.
More on Screen Readers
The other day, Also through Blind News, I received the press release announcing the latest and greatest version of Window-Eyes. Like I do with most access technology announcements, I read it with interest. The press release contained a statement that said that Window-Eyes 6.0 was, "the first screen reader to support the Outlook calendar." I took exception to this phrase as I've been using the Outlook calendar with JAWS for a long time. So, I said "flame on" and wrote an e-mail to Doug Geoffray with the intent of reminding him that we've had this feature in JAWS for a long time.
As is often the case when I shoot my mouth off before actually trying software, I learned that my e-mail to Doug was entirely unfounded. He responded by suggesting that I actually try the product before complaining about it. So, I did.
I apologize to Doug for sending him such a rude e-mail without even trying his latest version. Fortunately, I didn't write anything in Blind Confidential about this feature before writing privately to Doug who is a big boy and who knows me well enough that I can't say anything that would actually hurt his feelings. I will take this opportunity to tell anybody who uses the Outlook calendar with any frequency that they should try the latest window eyes. While I disagree with Doug's assertion that they were the "first" to support this important feature of Outlook, I will agree entirely that the new window eyes sets the bar for working in the Outlook calendar and does a much better job than any other screen reader that I've tried using in the Outlook calendar.
Congratulations to the GW guys for getting this difficult feature to work terrifically.
The Goddamn Rumors
The access technology industry is always rife with rumors. I've been known to pass on quite a few while gossiping with friends and I enjoy hearing a lot of the rumors that bounce around the biz. I've made no secret that I've started hofstader.com and a commercial venture called Adlib Technology. I've heard all sorts of rumors about hofstader.com and Adlib and, frankly, I find it pretty flattering that people take the time to make up and spread stories about the things we may or may not be doing.
I take offense, however, when the rumors bouncing around name people who are not involved in these projects and who work for Freedom Scientific and other companies in the access technology business. While I have a lot of friends at these companies and envied their talent pool, none of them will be coming to work for any of my ventures anytime soon.
People working in the software field's can get in a lot of trouble if word gets around that they are even interviewing with other companies, let alone one run by a former employee of the company where they work. Please, believe me when I say that no freedom Scientific employees or engineers at other access technology companies will be joining Adlib technology or hofstader.com in the foreseeable future.
I do see these people on a social basis and sometimes tell them about things I'm working on but that's a far cry from recruiting them to work on my new projects so, if you feel like spreading rumors that can seriously mess up someone's career, think before you talk. Working in the access technology business is stressful enough in these people don't need to worry about the bullshit rumors that might get them in trouble. Feel free to say anything you want about me but, when talking about my friends, please shut the fuck up!