Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dynavox Acquires ERICA

In yet another acquisition announcement Dynavox now owns Eye Response Technologies makers of the ERICA system.  (Previous mergers and acquisitions include Blink Twice (the Tango) this past July, Enkidu in January 2004,  Mayer-Johnson and Dynavox merged in May 2004 as Dynavox left Sunrise Medical).  Dynavox also today filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a proposed initial public offering of its Class A common stock.  (Coincidence?)

This merger could be good for customers, the ERICA had one of the best eye tracking systems out there, but the software is so-so.  Dynavox is well known for its comprehensive communication software.  Currently, however, the Dynavox EyeMax uses an eyetracking system developed by EyeTech.  This leads to all sorts of questions around how and when (assuming it happens, they could just be eliminating competition) the EyeMax will move from being EyeTech based to Eye Response Technologies based. 

My larger concern is with the Mayer-Johnson/Dynavox empire as a whole.  They are getting bigger and bigger each year, but are they true to their mission?  What are your experiences?

1 comment:

  1. Are they true to their mission? It's hard to say what their mission is. Some time ago, DynaVox acquired Mayer-Johnson. Then they stopped supporting older versions of SDP. Many activities I've created in version 2.0.1 of SDP have been left behind by later versions. When my Mac G3 dies, I will no longer be able to use any of the books I scanned into SDP or the copy of the Test for Auditory Comprehension of Language that a colleague scanned into SDP. This represents MANY hours of work. So basically it's useless to create anything in SDP or Boardmaker that you want to be able to use for more than 5-7 years, because as they update and "improve" the software, they'll stop supporting the older versions. This is especially troubling because our clients' computers have a limited lifespan. Does DV-MJ think it's reasonable for their communication systems to be rebuilt from scratch every 5-7 years or so? Hey, my students plan to keep living and communicating for 50 to 70 years or more! Why shouldn't their communication systems provide continuity throughout their lifespans? Not all AT/AAC companies operate this way. My 10-year-old IntelliTools activities still work in Classroom Suite3. And in the mainstream world, my 10 year-old Word documents still open in the 2004 edition of Office:mac. And Word documents made in the newest version of Word still open with the 2004 version--so it can be done! It seems that DV-MJ has made a business decision that it isn't worthwhile to provide continuity with older versions of SDP. I would have difficulty drafting a mission statement consistent with that decision. I'm hoping their competitors will learn from this mistake and be faithful to their customers.

    It's also irritating that you have to use the cd every time you use SDP. This wears out the cd drive and uses up the battery. IntelliTools doesn't require you to use the cd once you've installed the software. Neither does Microsoft. The need to insert the SDP cd also prevents my students from using the cd drive for other computer activities without closing SDP and removing the cd--which they can't do independently. So this software that is supposed to help them become independent communicators actually maintains their dependence on teachers and staff. I've e-mailed and written and called several times to get the "code" that will enable him to use the software. We haven't received the code. I've also requested the code for my own version of SDP. The code they sent me didn't work and when I e-mailed and called they eventually stopped responding. How many times do I have to do this?

    Clearly I'm someone who has been overinvested in Mayer-Johnson products--because they are basically great products. But in the long run it hasn't paid off. Now there are other alternatives out there, and I'm looking into to them.


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