When I was first introduced to screen readers a little less than five years ago, I had the impression that Freedom Scientifics’ JAWS was the only game in town. It wasn’t until I began feeling comfortable using the technology and made my way back on the web, that I realized there were other solutions available.
The folks at Serotek have been doing their best to continuously let screen reader user’s and the AT industry know they were planning on changing the game.
Now, Serotek announces the end of the Service Maintenance Agreement (SMA). A SMA is a contract between the software vendor and the purchaser, entitling the user to a set number of upgrades.
As I write this post using JAWS version 9, I am slowly growing behind the times. Freedom Scientific has released their latest version, JFW 10. After downloading and installing the upgrade I realized my SMA ended with the last upgrade. I am going to have to fork over the money to upgrade. This is a choice I have to make for various reasons mainly work related.
Choice is great!
I appreciate Serotek for not only adding another screen reader option and introducing their other products, but also beginning the change in an industries business model.
Darrel over at the Blind Access Journal wrote a post titled "The SMA May be Dying, But I’m Not Celebrating." He proposes that eliminating the SMA may reduce timely updates to screen readers and therefore reduce access to new or upgraded mainstream applications.
This is actually already a problem we face as AT users. Let’s not forget, Serotek is a business. The mission of a business is first and foremost to make money.
I doubt very highly that Serotek is eliminating revenue, but rather changing the revenue stream from one that is solely customer based to another.
It’s similar to the changes in the music business. Record companies are realizing that their business model based mainly on the sale of physical cd’s or even digital music will need to change. Changes in the way society consumes and thinks about owning music are forcing the companies to change.
Serotek is simply trying to lead the change. Based on their recent history it seems they realize the importance of keeping up with the mainstream. I applaud Serotek for their willingness to try something new. Even more importantly I hope the overall technology/consumer electronics industry catches onto the concept offered by Serotek’s CEO Mike Calvo who said "…accessibility is a right not a privilege."