Software for Curricula

Why don't the computer companies develop good educational software?

The big hardware companies, IBM and Apple, have survived for years on the idea that all they had to do was make and sell computers; the programs for those computers would be developed by someone else. This model seems to have worked pretty well for them until recently.

How about the software companies? Ever since computers began to move out of the research lab, there have been companies devoted to building software for them. The large software compaines build software to help other businesses run payroll systems, do billing, manage inventory, and so on. Smaller companies, often people working out of the homes, spring up to build niche business applications, such as software to run a dentist's office or yet another neat computer game.

The problem with these models for us is that neither will suffice to generate large-scale high-quality educational software. Such software is out of the league of the lone developer working in the basement. Such software is as costly to build as the payroll systems the large software houses sell. However the customers for these systems are other large companies which can afford to pay plenty for them. Schools cannot afford to pay large amounts for educational software. Neither can parents afford the really large variety of software required to provide a comprehensive library for their children. So, hardware manufacturers and software developers are left waiting for a revolution that will not naturally occur.

Someone has to care enough to start this industry. Eventually there will be high-quality educational software in the home and in the schools. It will get developed when people who care about education get together with people who know about learning and people who know how to develop software. For now, we will have to watch as those educational software projects that are commercially viable for one reason or another get built, first in the area of business training and then in the area of blockbusters for kids and home.

Eventually, this new industry will be created, when it is in someone's interest to do it. For now, it is only in the children's interest.

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