We have been running the Thunder project for over four years now and we rightly from time to time think about the future of Thunder and free screenreader software for blind people in general. Mind you, the idea of running something is interesting in itself with all the turbulence in North Africa and the Middle East. Maybe those that run things are merely figure-heads who need respect and support to stay in charge. Maybe it is the ordinary people that actually keep things going as indeed it is with Thunder users. So thank you to the many who have enjoyed Thunder and helped other blind people to do good things on the computer.
So what about the future? We are not closing down and we know Thunder has its place for years to come. NVDA is much loved by techies but it is not so good for beginners and home users as Thunder and I have no difficulty in making use of both products on my machine and totally respecting and admiring what the NVDA team have achieved.
But there is much more now at stake than the desktop and laptop, NVDA and Thunder. We are witnessing a move from PC to mobile smart phone and the touch screen. There is budget shift towards ever lower costs which even manufacturers of specialist stuff for blind users can’t escape from. A word processor like MS Word used to cost well over £100 whereas now there is Pages for the iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard, Braille or QWERTY, and Pages only costs a few pounds.
Sticking with the smart mobile concept, you no longer have to memorise lots of obscure keystrokes or pay out a week’s wages for the latest upgrade. Instead, you quickly download a free upgrade in minutes. This is a huge advantage for newly blind people but something of a challenge to those of us versed in the old PC Windows ways. But I for one no longer sit at my PC in the evenings to catch up on news, music and technical updates like I used to. I am now comfortable on the couch with the iPad by me and a pair of high quality headphones over my bald head.
And the smart phone does far more than word processing, the web and phone calls. It tells me when the next bus is due and what street I am in and what landmarks and road crossings are nearby. Maybe the accuracy is not quite there yet but its good and will get better. It won’t be long before I shall be able to mark up with seeing help my personal local landmarks just like is done on the expensive commercial navigation aids of today.
So where is all this leading with reference to the Thunder project? Probably you have begun to work it out already. In fact we are going to continue to support Thunder by email, telephone and with our manuals and tutorials which we are just now updating. But we would be foolish not to be putting more effort into the smart phone, iPhone and Google Android, simply because this is what our blind and visually impaired customers will want and need to keep pace and stay mainstream.
Keep enjoying WebbIE and Thunder and we will still be here to support you. Watch this space for development and please do talk to us about what works for you, what does not and what you want of us.