Blind Bargains

Breaking: VFO Group, owners of Freedom Scientific and Optelec, Acquires AI Squared

With news that is sure to have ripple effects across the assistive technology landscape, VFO, the company which was formed last November to manage the Freedom Scientific and Optelec brands, has added AI Squared to its portfolio.

Adding the brand, product portfolio and capabilities of Ai Squared to VFO gives us the broadest portfolio in the industry, unmatched global distribution and market leading customer support, said John Blake, CEO and President of VFO and former President of Freedom Scientific. The combined company will offer customers the industry's most recognized screen magnification solutions, ZoomText and MAGic, and screen reading solutions, JAWS, ZoomText Fusion and Window-Eyes, next to the broad portfolio of video magnifiers, scan and read solutions, and refreshable Braille displays.

While no additional information has been given as to the future of any of the acquired products, the acquisition means that VFO now owns several screen reading and magnification products with overlapping features. AI Squared has offices in Manchester Center, VT and Fort Wayne, IN. VFO is based in St. Petersburg, FL and Barendrecht, the Netherlands. VFO consolidated the phone lines of Freedom Scientific and Optelec last month but continues to sell products from both portfolios. Vector Capital acquired Freedom Scientific and Optelec in a deal announced in November. AI Squared acquired GW Micro in 2014.

This is a breaking story, and we will update it if more information becomes available.

Source: AI Squared
Category: News
Displaying 5 comments.
gallagher123123 Tuesday, 14-Jun-2016 8:50 PM ET:

I don't yet know how I feel about this. I really wonder if this could mean that Jaws and Window Eyes could become one product. I really don't know about this.

darknexus Wednesday, 15-Jun-2016 08:06 AM ET:

And thus, the bell of doom on paid screen readers has now sounded. We knew it would happen. VFO would have never formed if both FS and Optelec had been profitable to start with, and AI squared hasn't been profitable for ages. GW Micro before that, even less. I must say, both companies have exhibited a startling lack of willingness to actually improve their products, so perhaps they deserve each other and the failure that is coming.

cw Wednesday, 15-Jun-2016 10:38 AM ET:

To me, it does seem like it is getting to big. My question is, what is going to happen next? I would like to see some more competing in the market, but NVDA and serotek does look like the only windows competitors. Let’s narrow this down a bit more. If it is a choice between screen readers, chances are good, you will go with NVDA or this other company, whatever it may be called, offers. Now, if I am reading the tealeaves right, serotek might be the next to go off the market or change majorly. Then again maybe not. I have been wrong before, but most people have talked about JAWS or NVDA. Fewer talked about WindowEyes. Yes, WindowEyes had some really good buy in prices. One good example of this is the copy of office deal where if you had a copy of office 2013, you could get WE for free per say. Of course, there is super nova over in England that might be an option to some. I am wondering if this market is really too small for these companies over all. You do have narrator in windows 8 and 10, and NVDA is apparently free to those who wishes to download it. Of course, there is Voice Over on the mac, and on the IOS devices. Let’s don’t forget talkback on android. I do know that someone somewhere do pick up the prices of these screen readers, but could the price of NVDA, narrator in windows 8 and 10, VoiceOver, and TalkBack along with people willingness to use mobile devices for a lot of things is the underlining cause of this? I don’t know if it is, but I do wonder. I also do not really know what things look like on the magnifier side of things. So could someone look into that?

darknexus Wednesday, 15-Jun-2016 3:24 PM ET:

@CW: Apparently free? NVDA is fully open source, you understand. Free to download, modify, even make your own version if you want. Nothing apparent about it.

cw Wednesday, 15-Jun-2016 5:05 PM ET:

The free part is what you said. The paid part is that someone has to put in the work to make it worthwhile for those of us who really do not have the skills to work on it ourselves. The open source part of it is a good thing. Believe me. There is no free lunch, but people can give out lunches that they made themselves assuming that they put in the time to make it and paid for all the things in it.

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J.J. Meddaugh is an experienced technology writer and computer enthusiast. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University with a major in telecommunications management and a minor in business. When not writing for Blind Bargains, he enjoys travel, playing the keyboard, and meeting new people.

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