FW: Why a Blog?

Brad,

 

In a lot of ways, your comments below serve
to crystallize a number of ideas you’ve previously aired in much longer
emails. That’s not to say your comments here should be seen as a complete
summary of everything you’ve said, only they touch on many of what seem
to be your central discussion points. As such, your comments here given serve
to guide my own remarks.

 

In a previous post, you compared Xpress It
to other AAC that you felt had a similar approach. One example you provided was
the Windows version of EZ-Keys, and I was frankly quite pleased that you did
that since EZ-Keys is a great example of why I was compelled to develop Xpress
It. Yes, the two products do seem superficially very similar, and the fact that
you couldn’t discern Xpress It’s advantages is a critical piece of
intelligence for me.  That tells me that my team and I need to highlight
those advantages even more clearly. What you’re unaware of is that EZ-Keys
is among the first AAC products Shell Oil purchased for me during my career
there. Of course this dates back to before Windows 3.0 even, but I believe I stated
during the presentation I did for your department last year that I had spent the
previous day downloading and experimenting with demo versions of AAC that
seemed to be our closest competition in terms of capability. That naturally
included EZ-Keys. Hence, I am probably still fairly current on that narrowed
field.

 

I can report from direct observation that
the user interface used for EZ-Keys is essentially unchanged from 16 years ago.
That bears out comments from you and Michael Schepperly of the former TRC (What
are they calling themselves now?) to the effect that disabled people rarely
willingly give up the first AAC they learn to use. That reality is why we are
mainly focused on capturing a share of first-time customers. In any event,
EZ-Keys XP is so much like its ancestor that it even duplicates the issues that
forced me to abandon the original!
J EZ-Keys lays claim to two features not
in Xpress It: the ability to provide word/phrase prediction inside other programs,
and built-in control of specialized features called “accessibility
options” critical for people like me to be able to use a computer effectively.

 

At first blush, the ability to provide
word prediction to other programs would seem to be a real advantage for EZ-Keys.
I would welcome it right now, for example. Yet, the people who decide what to
buy do not notice a couple of problems with this feature. Its very existence suggests
that the developer, Words+, too recognizes that disabled people will want to
use their computers for tasks in addition to talking. Unfortunately, EZ-Keys has
no way of knowing when its prediction activity are helpful and when they get in
the way. Since EZ-Keys uses the numeric keys along the top of the keyboard to choose
from its predictions, a user—especially a laptop user—is hardly
able to use spreadsheets, do online banking, and do all the other non-textual
things that a disabled person needs to be able to do. There is simply no easy
way to toggle the “feature” on and off as needed.

 

The other feature is something we did
touch on in our meeting. There was certainly a time when an AAC had to offer
its own solution for giving disabled people access to their computers. DOS
surely offered nothing inherent to help. However, times have definitely changed,
and features such as “sticky-keys,” and “filter-keys”
have been built-in since Windows 95. All EZ-Keys does now is offer a pop-up
window with options for setting some of those features. When I commented on
this during our meeting, your only comment was that at least made it easier for
you to find the settings. That’s perhaps true, but the applet that’s
intended to control them is at the very top of the applet list in the Control Panel.
In other words, EZ-Keys charges twice as much as Xpress It, and offers only one
feature that the combination of Xpress It and Windows doesn’t.

 

What I’m suggesting is the
possibility that the logic telling you that Xpress It doesn’t have a
clear advantage is a bit flawed. The things you might see as advantages for EZ-Keys
might not be. As you correctly observed before, there are people who are quite
happy to live in the Nineties. Very true, but the very fact that you consider EZ-Keys
for some people means automatically that you feel these individuals—for whatever
reason—need something  more than “just” an AAC device. The
question then becomes: “Does the ‘feature’ of EZ-Keys always
justify its extra cost?” It seems to me that the logic behind your approach
would start with EZ-Keys and then work “down” possibly toward less
expensive choices instead of starting below Xpress It and working up based on
features needed. I think you can immediately see that the two very different
approaches would tend to yield quite different solutions. I am not aware of cheaper
solutions that do things Xpress It does.

 

To illustrate what I mean by the last remark,
I need to remind you that Xpress It has a feature not even EZ-Keys can match. While
both of these AAC can do word prediction, only Xpress It learns from its own
experience. That not only means new words are automatically added to the dictionary
database, but the frequency of each word is tracked. That means that, when one
word is entered or selected, Xpress It can correctly create a list of probable
next words sorted by the odds. That is a huge assist that EZ-Keys doesn’t
match. Once upon a time, Words+ had another AAC, The Equalizer, that was much
closer to what Xpress It is now.

 

I hadn’t intended for this to be
another Xpress It commercial. My plan was to examine more closely the reasoning
used by SLPs like you to select an AAC. Yet, I realize as I read your comments
that there are aspects of my product that really aren’t clear to you. If I
ever want SLPs to recommend my AAC, I have to make clear how it is different. That’s
a fundamental I just have to trudge through before we can get to the more interesting
subjects.

 


From: brad
Sent: Thursday, July 28, 2005 9:53
PM
To: Scott Royall
Subject: Re: Why a Blog?

 


So I numbed your mind? Hopefully, the "dealing
with it" you referred to is a positive thing.

One
thing, though. Getting slammed is certainly not my ONLY concern, though I
prefer not to when it can be avoided. Don’t you?  It wouldn’t be the first
or last time, though, so if that’s in store, that’s fine too.  

My
primary concern is truly that your information is accurate……. for 2
reasons. One, so you can advance your product.

It
would be great for me to have another option to offer my clients. It does not
serve me at all to discourage the development of a new tool that can help
someone. Currently, however, without distinct feature or price advantages,  I
cannot offer XPress-It to anyone that uses Medicare, insurance, or the former
TRC as a funding source, since it is not on the "Medicare approved
list". If it was the "only solution" to the situation, it might
get paid under special consideration.  Currently I can only refer it for a
oerson who can pay privately and is willing to "take a shot" with an
unknown product. Private purchase is feasible for some of the people I see, but
if all features are generally equal among compared products, the price will be
the deciding factor every time. My perception is that the biggest advantage
that XPress-It offers currently is seamless computer access for the high end
user. Unless that is the special need for that particular client, Xpress-It may
outprice itself in the comparison. It uses Eloquence, has word prediction, and
is accessible via keyboard, all of which are features that are available in
other products for less.  

My
second reason is so the people who you refer to are accurately portrayed. I
feel that people’s ideas should be shared accurately and not  thrown into
a mix that cannot be clearly sorted through. Your prior inclusion of SLPs as a
group and your perceptions of "our" considerations, requirements,
etc. for products was concerning to me, since I know that some of those
perceptions are inaccurate. There are still many of us in the field who believe
that each situation demands specific consideration and that often, custom
solutions are required. Perhaps I am the exception, but I doubt it.  I do
know people, however, who think that all devices work for all clients and you
should just pick one. That is what prompted the "getting slammed"
comments.

After
reading  the entire blog, I have a better feel for the nature of your
correspondence and find that my concerns were not fully warranted. My concerns
remain regarding over-generalization but  I certainly have no objection to
accurate use of the information I sent. By the way, you were very nice to say
that I am somewhat computer savvy, though in truth I am clueless and no longer
have any savvy at all.

Hope
that clarifies a little.

 

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