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You Can't Have it Both Ways

This has been bugging me for a few days now so I figured I'd talk about it
here. All I ask is that people read this all the way through before throwing
rotten tomatoes at me. I've tried to present the facts as I understand them,
and if I have gotten something wrong I'll fix it.

A few days ago, Freedom
Scientific
announced that they were teaming up with Sendero Group to release version 2.0
of the StreetTalk GPS package. The complete package originally sold for
about $600 US, and included maps for the US and Canada (unless you lived in
another country of course), and all the accessories needed to set up the PAC
Mate
for GPS. This version used the off-the-shelf Destinator GPS
software overlaid with an application that made it accessible. However,
users wanted more. Destinator was, of course, primarily designed for the
creation of vehicle routes, and users wanted it to be easier to plot
pedestrian routes and things.

When the second version of the product was announced, the original plan was
to continue working with Destinator to create an integrated package with
more of the features people were asking for. As a previous owner of the
StreetTalk software, I was waiting along with everyone else for news about
the upcoming release.

Time passed, and very little information was given. As a beta tester for
several products though, I know that sometimes things come up in testing,
and this is especially true when more than one company is involved in
development, and the end users can't always be kept informed, even if the
main company would like to pass on more information. And, as it turned out,
this ended up being the case.

When the announcement about the joint effort between FS and Sendero came
out, many people basically flipped. The cost for a new user is right around
$1700, which includes all accessories needed to get set up. For existing
StreetTalk users, the upgrade price is $699. I've read the messages on the
email list and the discussion has been heated. However, here are my
thoughts.

The argument has been made that one of the PAC Mate's greatest features is
its ability to run off-the-shelf software. People are upset because, even
with this argument, FS has chosen to go with a known blindness GPS solution
engine. Users want to know why this is. My opinion, for what it's worth, is
this. The original StreetTalk came out in the summer of 2005. Since then,
there were no updates for current users, although I'm sure things were being
worked on. In the end, Destinator filed for bankruptcy in 2008, which ended
the partnership between themselves and FS. Given the length of time and
energy spent working with Destinator, if FS were to partner up with yet
another GPS company, it could take months, if not longer, to start from the
ground up once again. And, then there's the question, what about the feature
set? There's still going to be the problem of these mainstream products
being designed for the sighted driver, so more adaptations would need to be
made. If people are upset about waiting this long for an update, taking this
kind of step would require even longer wait times. By going with a known
blindness solution, FS has ensured that the features users want and need are
going to be present.

There has also been a lot of complaining about FS's apparent lack of
communication with customers, which I touched on earlier. But, again, if
there's information going back and forth between companies, and that
information is confidential, what's FS supposed to do about that? And, with
the recent information about Destinator's bankruptcy, obviously FS wasn't
going to go around spreading that kind of information. It's just not good
business.

Current users of the product are upset about having to pay more for the
upgrade than they did for the original product, and in some cases, double
that in order to upgrade their PAC Mates to the latest version which is
needed to run the new software. Okay, this one's a tough one. It's hard to
say that it's the user's fault for not staying current with the updates,
because for those who were using the original version of StreetTalk, they
couldn't update or they'd lose the ability to run the program. So it's kind
of a sore spot for users, and I can understand the frustration. But, I guess
I also feel that if this were Microsoft, and if Microsoft said that you had
to have Windows Vista in order to run some wonderful program, the majority
of people would pay for the update, so why is it so different just because
it's a blindness product?

People are saying that they're done giving money to FS because of this.
They're not going to update their JAWS
, and they're not going to do this and that. Personally, I feel that this is
going just a bit too far. People always have choices though, and if they're
going to choose to throw their tantrums, and kick and stomp their feet over
a business decision without thinking it through, then that's their choice. I
chose to go with a different GPS solution. My decision was made long before
this announcement came out, and had absolutely nothing to do with FS at all.
I needed a solution that I could use immediately, and my package just
happens to also be based on the Sendero engine. I transferred my StreetTalk
license to masterofmusings because this is software that he'd
like to be able to use, and I felt that any savings I could give to him
would be helpful.

I guess the bottom line though is this. People are now saying that the
Sendero products are seriously lacking in features that are available in the
mainstream GPS products. The mainstream products are lacking in the features
that we want and need as blind people. Yes, maybe the ideal solution would
be to team up with another mainstream provider, but at what cost? How much
time and resources are going to go into the production of a product that
still may or may not meet the needs of the customers? I don't have the
answers obviously, but I have definite opinions. People don't always have to
agree with a company's decision, but I think it'd be a good idea to at least
sit back and try to understand why they did what they did. Personally,
knowing what the Sendero SDK is like, I think that StreetTalk is going to
end up being a wonderful product that people will be happy with. I guess
though that only time will tell in the end, and if those that aren't happy
with the collaboration, that's their choice in the end. But, you can't have
it both ways, and people would complain if FS had gone with another
mainstream company because of the longer delay, yet they're complaining now
because of the use of Sendero. At some point, decisions have to be made, and
it's one user's opinion that FS made the best choice they could.