Interesting news from Kara Swisher over at All Things Digital. Apparently, the Kno is in talks to sell its hardware manufacturing part of the company and then focus on software and digital textbook delivery only.
According to sources the “quicker than expected uptake” in tablet production of other manufacturers basically made the need for a dedicated educational hardware device “less critical”.
Back in September 2010 I put down my thoughts in “The Hard or the Soft Way? Thoughts on the Kno and Inkling“. I never really understood the exact benefit of having a dedicated tablet device for education as it does nothing more or less than a regular tablet. And for the rest we all know that “There is an app for that.”
Inkling is a perfect example as the application works on the iPad and focuses clearly on enhancing the learning experience by adding interactive content and a social layer to the textbooks. There are currently 23 titles available for the inkling app.
And that’s where the Kno could profit of its massive $40 million + funding and contracts with both textbook publishers and colleges & universities. You hve to remember that the co-founder of the Kno, Osman Rashid is also the co-founder of textbook rental juggernaut Chegg, so there are clearly some connections as I wrote in a second article “Chegg + Kno = Apple for Higher Ed?” back in September 2010. Getting rid of the tremendously cost intensive hardware manufacturing and focus on learning software and the delivery of digital textbooks only could easily turn the Kno into the market leader in that space.
But what is even more interesting, it already provides the company with a profitable new business model for the day classic textbooks will have been gone. It’s a bit like a torch relay. Chegg disrupted the classic textbook market by offering rentals to students and now the Kno could potentially disrupt Chegg’s own but also Bookrenter’s textbook rental model by offering digital textbooks which are once again cheaper but also more convenient, more engaging and everything you need is a tablet device, you already own anyway or, if you choose to buy the Kno v2.0, a device similar to one you would have bought.
Two questions remain open. One, was the decision taken by the founders does it come from the investor’s side who simply don’t want to battle with companies like Apple, HP, Motorola, Dell, RIM, etc. Having speculated here, the manufacturer who eventually teamed up with the Kno could have competitive advantage on the tablet market. Which leads us to the second question whether the Kno will be an application only such as inkling is, running on Android, Windows Mobile 7 or HP webOS. In another possible scenario it would run its own operating system based on Android.
According to the article on All Things Digital, the Kno is currently in talks with two major hardware manufacturers and I could imagine HP be very interested in a partnership to bring its webOS in the hands of new consumers. I predict, the two screen device will very likely go the way of the dodo as I don’t think that any hardware company will take the risk of building such a device.
Extra “educational” features could include a stylus for taking quick notes, a microphone to record lectures and maybe even the two cameras that have become a de facto standard already.