Something is Going on Down there in the LMS Market

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In the movie Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, one of the opening shots shows the skyline of Houston from above. As the camera goes over the buildings, a series of voices say, “something is going on down there”, well in the LMS world; something is going on down there..

Get your tablets here.. your tablets..

Latest data:

  • 95% of the tablet market is owned by iPad
  • 35 tablets will hit the market starting in early Q4 to late Q1 2011
  • Samsung Galaxy S is expected to be the first real challenger to the iPad, it runs on Android OS, offers Flash 10.1 and HTML5. launches on Verizon on November 11th, has features including camera, web cam, etc.
  • HP Slate already is in the market, runs on Windows7, but targets the business market
  • There are over 30 tablets already in the market, besides the iPad, including some that run on the Android OS
  • Gartner is calling tablets – “media tablets”
  • The tablets actual name is “consumer slate tablets”, but most people are just calling them “tablets”
  • Gartner projects over 208 million units in 2014

LMS Vendors and Tablets Update

  • A significant (over 90%) of vendors are holding off this year and at least part of next year from optimizing their solution to the iPad
  • Over 98% do not have a true HTML5 player in their system that can run a 100% pure HTML5 course – which by the way, has nothing to do with the browser agnostic pitch they make about their system being optimized for the iPad
  • None of have stated that their system works on any other tablet, again, it may be browser agnostic, but with 30+ in the space and more coming, time to jump off the bench and verify that it looks sharp and slick on other tablets – start with the Galaxy

Browser Agnostic

When you hear the term “browser agnostic”, what this means is that the product or solution will work on any browser. But with LMS vendors jumping into the mobile learning sector, at least in some cases, it may be a tad misleading, especially with smartphones.

You have no idea on what browsers they tested their solution to make that claim.  I’m sure they tested with IE, Firefox, Safari and Chrome, but what about Opera Mini? Dolphin HD?

Let me back up, on the Opera and Dolphin HD part.   Opera is a browser which you can download and use on your desktop, laptop, etc., but it is extremely popular, with some reports saying #1 most used browser for smartphones.   Dolphin HD is a browser that is extremely popular on the Android smartphones.

My question to vendors who pitch browser agnostic is simple: did you test and verify that your LMS (if you stated it as a mobile LMS) will work with these two specific browsers?

Why the Concern?

Two years ago, lots of LMS vendors were saying their systems were browser agnostic.

However, if you tested them in Avant, an alternative browser used by many people, they were not – yet Avant used Flash and Java. Same issue occurred with Opera – used Flash and Java. Same issue occurred with various other alternative browsers – many of which were built on similar IE like platforms, uh, Opera was not.

In the case of a well known LMS vendor for example, their system came up on Avant, but when I went to play a course, their course player screen failed to work effectively and the course window did not look as it should, in comparison to some of the other better known browsers. Yet, Avant supported Flash and Java. In the case of the Avant, it was the Avant browser, due to other issues and not the vendor’s system.  It was supposed to be browser agnostic.

Then and Now

Several years ago, many LMS vendor products did not work on Macs, a major consternation for end users who used this system. Two years ago, there were LMS vendors systems who did not work on Chrome.

HTML5, Flash and Java

The issue isn’t so much a support question of HTML5 on the iPad, but rather the fact of lack of support of Flash and Java on the iPad.  However, the vendors of the latest versions of the more recognized browsers have stated that they offer greater support (their own words), capabilities and features for HTML5, then their current versions of their browsers.

HTML5 & Video – There is a Difference when it comes to your favorite browser

Not every browser supports the same video codecs, a downside to HTML5.  Here are the current breakouts:

  • Google Chrome 8 and future editions, Microsoft IE9 and Apple Safari 5 supports h.264, a proprietary format
  • Chrome 8 plus future editions support VP8 – proprietary only to Google
  • Firefox 4.0 and Opera 10.6 will support Ogg Theora, a free codec

Acquire, Assimilate

Ahh two wonderful words, unless you happen to be the other company on the other end, about to be purchased or assimilated into your new BFF’s product.

What is different this time around, then in past years, are the buyers are not from the LMS space. They are from other markets, but are entering and purchasing, and yes in some cases assimilating.   Let’s take a brief look at a couple of recent moves:

  • Taleo acquires
  • reportedly close to acquiring DimDim (web conferencing solution)

Talent Management Systems

As mentioned a few months back, this is a continuing growth market with lots of revenue opps. So, what does that mean? Besides the players who already are what I deem pure TM vendors, a couple of new kids are entering the space (or already are in the space) to compete.

Let’s meet the teams:

  • 100% Pure Talent Management Systems – this is what they do, they may offer a tiny bit of L&D, but it is tiny..some do not offer it
  • LMS vendors with TM modules – they are still in the LMS space, but they are splitting into two – with LMS one side, the other side driven by TM or as some like to pitch it “Performance Management or Knowledge Management”
  • LMS vendors who left the LMS space to focus only on TM

For the LMS vendors with the split angle, I recall one vendor (who shall remain nameless) telling me that 60+% of their end users were using their LMS, but the rest were using the Talent Management features.

Another vendor (again, nameless) told me that although externally they were a LMS, internally (after I repeatedly asked them) were aiming more towards the TM market.  Nothing wrong with either of those strategies, mind you. After all, there is money in those hills!  Or workplaces.


Have you ever heard of them? If you are in the TM market, you should.  They are an ERP system founded by the guy who started Peoplesoft and then eventually sold it to Oracle. Well, he is back.  Workday is gaining traction.  If I am a TM solution or I am focusing on offering TM/PM capabilities and want to stress the integration to ERP solutions, I  am going to want to make sure I include Workday.


Even if you are not in the TM market, but you pitch that your system integrates well with ERP systems, such as SAP, Oracle and Peoplesoft, I would want to start having meetings internally on Workday.  Traction means something, and the fact it is happening in a slow economy, should be screaming to you, that a move is afoot.

Pay for the Privilige

One of the most irritating things I see in the market, is when a feature or service that is commonly free turns into a fee based. Especially, when it can mislead end users, who maybe unaware that the feature or service is not needed.

When a Course Authoring Tool Built-In is not a Free Built-In

I have seen this with a couple of vendors and thought to myself, are they kidding me? Thankfully they were lousy LMSs, so it never really irked me.  That said, I have to say I was in shock when I found out that Topyx LMS by Interactyx is offering their built in course authoring tool as a FEE based solution and not free.

Here is how the offer works

  • You receive 30 days free to use the course authoring tool – again it is built into the system
  • If you choose to use it, after the trial, it will cost you $1,000 for unlimited number of courses and unlimited number of authors or developers

So, for a one time fee of 1K, you can build your own courses using their content authoring tool that exists in their system.  Again, you do not have to use their tool, it is completely optional, but if you want to, there is a fee to it.

Confusion to End Users

  • Because the course authoring tool is built into the system, the only way to build your own courses, is to use their course authoring tool

This is FALSE.  You do not. You can purchase any 3rd party course authoring tool product or use a free course authoring tool product to create your courses and upload them into the Topyx LMS, as long as it is SCORM compliant. Topyx is SCORM 2004, which means that a tool that is SCORM 2004, SCORM 1.2, SCORM 2000 will work.

After building your course, you will select (based on your 3rd party product) how you would want to output it – SCORM wrapper, etc.  – then you can move/upload it into the LMS.

  • Pricing is lower for the built-in course authoring tool then purchasing a 3rd party

DEPENDS on whose product your purchase. Look around. Use my content authoring tool directory, which lists over a hundred vendors, their products and includes price points. It identifies those who offer trials and provides additional information.   If you want to use a freebie, my blog contains an article on free course authoring tools – the most widely used one is courselab.

I hope that Interactyx re-thinks this strategy.

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