The Future of Interactive Whiteboards, Part 2

The latest financial reports were published by SMART today. If you remember, I predicted sales would be down. They were:

Point #1: SMART is still making money, but it is a private business that is created to earn profit. Breaking even won't make any shareholder happy, and they are approaching that level of sales.

Point #2: North American income was down 21%. The release attributes it to the economy and education spending; the truth is that education dollars are going elsewhere: iPads.

Point #3: Average selling price is down. Each of these IWBs is in the $6000 range. If the average selling price is $1400, you know that SMART is now doing more business with accessories (student response systems/clickers, projectors, sound systems) than with the boards themselves.

My estimate for the next quarter: continued sales and perhaps a upward bump as a number of schools (including schools in my district) are told by administration that they have to buy IWBs, another set are sold by the (now outdated) research on IWBs, and even more continue to buy them because the school IT departments are anti-Apple. All of these purchases occur between July 1 and August 1.

Expect a dismal report the quarters to come. Many schools will begin selling their used SMART Boards on the market in an attempt to keep the devices used in education and to leverage 1:1 iPad programs.

Again, SMART is beginning to hedge their bets with iOS, with an app due any day. They are going to fight to stay relevant. True, at this point the app is at least a year overdue (the day the first school went all-iPad, they should have hired an iOS developer). But since no other IWB manufacturer has entered the market–they can make some profit here. I'd also be working on Apple TV friendly connections as well as large LCD touchscreen technology, hopefully in connection with Apple. There's a 90 inch LCD TV on the market for $10,000 right now. In two years, there will be even larger TVs at a lower cost, which will have a longer lifespan and lower operating/maintenance/replacement cost than LCD Projectors, and that is where the future lies.

You can count the IWB as a technology past its lifespan, like the floppy disc and CD drive. No, I don't hate the technology and it was a great improvement over chalkboards and white boards as teachers were able to make interactive lessons. The thing is that the IWB is a teacher driven device, even if you let students use it. Meanwhile, if used properly, the iPad becomes a student driven device–and the paradigm changes completely.

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