Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blackboard buys WIMBA & Elluminate, the crowd goes wild!

Well, last night Blackboard went on the Borg trail again - resistance is futile, you will be acquired!

This time around it's WIMBA and Elluminate that are up on the acquisition block.  Some people have rejoiced at news of the acquistion while others have dissenting opinions (same link as the rejoice, just scroll down).  From a business point of view I think that Blackboard did the right thing, they obviously had a deficiency in their product, open source alternatives like Sakai and Moodle were doing what Blackboard is doing with their current LMS product, so they needed a differentiator.  Even if you do use Moodle or Sakai, you still need synchronous capabilities, don't you? So you can be happy with your Open Source LMS and still buy a blackboard product.  Also by buying two products in the same category you're eliminating competition!

Of course, there is the side that makes business sense - in the fiscal, competitive sense - and the business side that makes sense in the marketing, listening to customers, and having-customers-flock-to-you-because-you-have-a-great-product-not-because-they-have-to sense.  Blackboard fails miserably at this. Their reputation is bad among academic circles (you know, the teachers, not the admins), and with this Borg culture of theirs, (Prometheus, WebCT and Angel acquisitions for the LMS and now WIMBA and Elluminate) they are seen more as the bad guy rather than an innovator.  I think that Blackboard is consistently viewed as the Microsoft of the LMS.  I think the company needs to wake up and smell the beans - otherwise this alienation from their customers will cause them to lose some serious dollars in the future from a fleeing customer base (or from an antitrust hearing).
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