SMART Technologies is out of their minds.

I received a communication from our SMART vendor that there are some changes coming to the SMART software licenses in April of 2014.  Ultimately, if you want to keep current with SMART software (e.g. Notebook), you will need to buy annual (up to five years at a time) licenses.

When my former school put a SMART Board in every classroom, one of the reasons that device was chosen by the district was that software updates were free and continuous…we had been told that the original SMART Board still worked with SMART Notebook 10.  In fact, teachers were encouraged to download SMART Notebook on home computers as part of the overall agreement, as teachers could work at home (this was before everyone had laptops).

Well, that plan has now shifted.  Schools will be expected to purchase annual plans to keep current with software.  This is at the same time that SMART’s new products include touch screen TVs (70″) and touch-screen tables.  In a world of iPads and Chromebooks, the device doesn’t hold the appeal (or shouldn’t) as it once did; and schools might be better served going to another interactive white board provider that offers the software for free.

Interestingly, Apple is going the other way completely: buy our hardware, we’ll give you the software (all of it) we make for it for free.  Granted, the life span of a tablet or a computer is significantly less than an Interactive White Board; but an iPad costs $599 (in a configuration of at least 32GB), whereas an installed SMART Board was costing our district more than $8000.  You can argue that multiple iPads over the life of the SMART Board might be a better investment–especially if you have to pay significant licensing fees (and I am not sure those have been stated yet).

SMART probably has to do this to stay alive in the world of iPads and Chromebooks, but it is a significant change for schools that bought into SMART Boards believing that the software would remain free with the purchase of the device.  And to be blatantly honest, SMART Notebook has never worked that well with our MacBook-for-teacher initiative, and some things, such as Office integration, have only caused problems.

If I am dramatic about it, the pricing change probably reflects the last efforts of a dying industry as it attempts to stay profitable.  It is kind of a sad thing to think about.


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