Sanako, a Finnish ISV that develops software for the education market, has announced a relationship with Nokia to extend its classroom management offering from PCs and laptops to mobile devices, in the form of the Nokia N810 Internet Tablet.
Turku-based Sanako has a long heritage in language learning technology, having started life as the educational division of Norwegian group Tandberg, which sold it to Finnish company Teleste in 1985. It was split out as a VC-backed independent company in 2001, taking with it a portfolio of language-teaching software that continues to represent the bulk of its revenue, as well as a classroom-management offering launched in 1997 called Study 100.
Its current platform in this area is called Study 500, which uses a client-server architecture to enable teachers to manage what pupils can see on their PCs via a server on the school network and a teacher’s module on their own machines. The teacher can carry out file transfers, as well as one-to-one communications with pupils, and take control of the students’ browsers to give them all views of the same content.
Sanako also offers app-specific modules that sit on the Study 500 server, with names like Video Live (for video streaming), Examinations (for ad hoc tests), and Study 1200 (for language lab functionality). The mobile extension offering is another of these modules, called Study Mobile.
Kimmo Karpijoki, senior manager of business partnerships for Sanako, said it has been working wit Nokia over the last year to develop a client for the N810, which can communicate with a Study 500 server in the school network. It is Sanako’s first client for Linux, since the Nokia device runs on a Maemo Linux kernel. All other Sanako clients run on Windows platforms.
Sami Puukari, director of business development at Nokia Mobile Phones, said the client is a lightweight package. It is basically a browser with some specific features that enable the teacher module to take control of the students’ devices, he said.
Study Mobile is initially being launched in the UK, with Sanako also becoming a specialized reseller for the N810 in order to deliver it with the software pre-installed to schools. The handset has a price tag of 295 pounds ($577) without VAT. Ian McDowall, Sanako’s regional director for the UK and Ireland, said that while there is no additional cost for the client, the system does also require the school to have a site license for Study 500. These range from 800 pounds to 2,500 pounds, depending on the number of clients they are supporting, he said.
The N810 was launched last November and is the third generation of Internet Tablet from Nokia, said Puukari. It offers 802.11b/g WiFi as it primary connectivity mode, though it can also communicate via Bluetooth with a mobile phone. It has a full, slide-out Qwerty keyboard and a landscape-style screen. At the moment the teacher module is available only to run on a desktop or laptop PC, but Karpijoki said a future version would also run on the N810 itself.
While the launch is taking place in the UK and is limited to that market, Nokia makes no secret of the fact that the primary target for the N810 is the US, given the prevalence of WiFi in North America, and Sanako already has a direct presence in the US so there is clearly potential for expanding the operation there, and also the other 60 countries in which Sanako offers its products.
Karpijoki said there are a variety of ways Study Mobile may be acquired. The school may buy the devices, or it may share the cost with the parents, for instance, he said.