IAP Episode 1 Volume 2: Jeremy Curry, Window-Eyes

This week on the IAP, Jeremy Curry of GW Micro and I discuss the revolutionary partnership between Microsoft and GW Micro that lead to Window-Eyes being offered for free to owners of Office 2010 or later.

Show Notes & Links


Announcer: This is the IAP - Interactive Accessibility Podcast with Jeremy Guill and Mark Miller. Introducing Jeremy Guill and Mark Miller.

Mark Miller: Hey, welcome to the IAP. Thanks for helping us keep it accessible. Do us a favor. If you’re enjoying the IAP, share it. Tell someone about it. Hey, even link to it from your accessible website. Well, this is Mark Miller and Jeremy Guill is not here today he's got a well-deserved  a day off but I am here with a very  special guest Jeremy Curry from  GW micro. Jeremy, your world just got real exciting over  there, huh?

Jeremy Curry: Ah, man has been absolutely crazy Mark, I appreciate you having us.

Mark:   No problem

Jeremy: it’s been mass chaos here over the past couple days. Kind of a big huge massive announced.

Mark: Big announcement… yeah!

Jeremy:  So, I guess for those who haven't heard, basically anybody in the world who’s got Office 2010 or newer can download window eyes and use it for free.

Mark: That’s incredible… That’s incredible…  and this has been a long time  coming where… the world - and we were saying this  kinda but before the Jeremys heated up - is  that,  whether I think you realize it or not - especially if you're in the accessibility world - We've been sort of  waiting for something like this to  happen. So, this is kind of a big deal.

Jeremy: Yeah, you know, people have been talking about Apple for a long time. And, people have wanted something like this with Microsoft and now they've got an option.  It's a huge deal… It’s huge game changer because its changes the whole… just the entire assistive technology industry. People are just in shock at the moment. And, I mean not only professionally but personally for me this thing is really awesome. I started losing my site when I turned 18 and now use a guide dog… and this is accessibility… and being able to get to technology, good technology, into the hands of people like myself has just been up a passion of mine. And, when we announce this it was like, literally, just like changing the world… just like, yeah, we finally did it you know around the world. It doesn’t matter who you are, you can access this. It’s just an awesome feeling on a personal level. So, it's been incredible.

Mark: Yeah that's great! Well and I know, that,  you know, over there at GW Micro that this has been… we've  all… the world just heard about this, but  this has been something that you guys  have been working on for a while now, with Microsoft. And, guess what, something that you couldn't talk about until recently. So, it really… I mean, in light of everybody goes to work and they work hard, but when the end result is something that's so beneficial to so many people it must feel really good when you, kinda, bring your head above the water and look around and go wow look at… look at where  we are now and what we've actually  accomplished here.

Jeremy: Yeah, it's an amazing feeling. Like you said, it's been, you know, it's not just weeks or days, it has been months and months a planning.  We've had to keep this a secret from everybody. You know, I've been working with Microsoft a lot with this thing, just trying to make this happen and get it all done. And, it's just been a very long process. So you’re right, when we were finally able to tell everybody we're just kinda like, “haha yeah,” you know, “this is just just awesome.”

Mark: Well…, sorry, it's been a lot of work for you guys but now the nuttiness really begins.  I mean people are going… like, people going crazy and you guys are like right in the center of it all.

Jeremy: Yeah I, you know, I look at our social media cuz I'm usually the get the response to most that stuff. But, I'm watchin Twitter just, like, literally blow up that day. I was watching on my phone that night. I’m like people are still tweeting this. Just, like, almost midnight people are still re-tweeting.  It’s just, it's been fantastic and, you know, people who haven't tried our software before… now they're tryin’ it.  People who hadn’t had access to it before, now they're downloading it. I've had friends who are like well you know maybe this means I can get a job a lot easier. I’m like, “yes.” I mean, literally, change the world. Makin’ people employable and breaking down as economic barriers. It's, just, it's just awesome. I don’t know how else to describe it.

Mark: Talk to me a little bit  about that, because, and correct me if I'm wrong here, but in my sorta limited view of the world of screen readers and things that are, you know, integrated with OS and isn't free and all that, that Apple's actually had a pretty decent market on that. But, people don't go to work in use there, you know, Apple based products as much as they do a Windows based product. So, we're really talking about changing things in terms of the way people can do business… and the productivity they can add to a business, and opportunities that they have. Is that sort of a fair statement, with this, with this new partnership between you and Microsoft?

Jeremy: Yeah, I think that's very fair. The last numbers I read on the web, kind of just in general, you know, that the market still eighty to ninety percent still PC. Obviously, Apple's got a large share in the mobile market segment. But, when you look at Microsoft Office it's like ninety-eight percent market share. Something close to 100 percent. So, almost everybody's got it and if you don't have access to it you can get Office 365 for your home for, like, 10 bucks a month. It’s pretty cheap. So, yeah, as far as productivity, that's what people are using, you know. Their use in schools, using workplace. I mean, literally, this can help get you employed by not having to worry about the cost of a screen reader now. So, yeah I think that’s absolutely a fair statement to make. And, it’s like you said, it’s something that has been a long time coming and we're so excited to see it come to fruition. 

Mark: I mean good for you and good for Microsoft I think that it's, you know, it's just important. We think a lot about technology and, Oh, now you know, now we're able to do this and now we're able to do that. The other side of it is putting the deals together.  Making it make monetary sense for the businesses involved. For you, for Microsoft. Making it make monetary sense… or making it accessible from a  monetary sense, I think is a better way to say it - for at the general public and, you know, just as much work goes into bringing those kinda things together so that people can benefit from technology that's out there. Right, lots times we don’t have to make something new, we just keep improving what's out there and we, maybe, retool the way that it's presented. And, I think that it's you know it's really interesting to stop and think that there's people like you guys out there that are working from that angle as well as a technology angle.

Jeremy: Yeah, there's always lots of components, you know, anything you do whether it's building a screen reader, or building up you know softwares that is for hospitals, there's always business decisions that go behind it and… there's just always a lot to the entire process. It’s not, you know, just building the software. People don’t see a lot of that behind the scenes stuff. And we are obviously don't make most of that public. So, there's a lot that goes into it, but, you know, the reality is that all this is just come together. The partnership we've had with Microsoft for, you know, twenty-some years now, it just continues to grow closer and closer with that relationship. And, we work well with them they work well with us and it is just all come together.

Mark: Yeah, well, it makes me feel good that there’s people out there thinking about this. You know what I mean? We may not realize until it comes to a moment like this - where something is released - but there's actually people out there going to work every day trying to work these things out for the good of everyone out there.  And, I think that's great. Now, let's get a little bit into the details, here, about what exactly this means. And, you said at the top the podcast here that, basically, if you have office 2010 or later you've got a free version of Window-eyes. All you gotta do is you you've download it, right? And we have the link on our blog. We have the download to it. But you can you can give people the download if you want… but you download it and they basically it's a free version, but they get just about everything that they would have if they paid for it in the past, right?

Jeremy: Yeah almost, I mean it's basically the same program. Basically the same bit. So people who might be worried about limited functionality -they don't need to worry about that. It’s the same functionality. So, basically, you go to www.windoweyesforoffice.com. It's all one word, all lower case. Like you said it’s on your blog as well. So, Windoweyesforoffice.com, and you can download it in over 15 different languages there. They're really five major differences. The one that's probably most notable to people are the synthesizers, or some people might call them voices these days. You get espeak and then the human sounding Microsoft speech platform with the free version, okay. But, if you want to add other human sounding synthesizers like vocalizer expressive, or if you want eloquence, for example, or deck talk, you can buy those for a fee. They're pretty cheap. The most expensive one is vocalizer, which is only 59 bucks. And, the others are less than that. So, the synthesizers are one difference. Sense you’re downloading it, you don't get a installation CD… that’s something you get with the retail version. Again, you don't get the Braille, Large Print Hotkey guide since it’s a download. We have a program that for Skype call GW Connect. It makes a consistent Skype interface and that's an ad-free experience with the retail version, but it's with a sponsored mode with advertisements… that is with the free version, I guess, of Window-eye or Window-eyes for office, I should say… for users of Microsoft Office. And, you can buy that ad-free experience if you want. Probably, the main difference that people notice - technical support. So, if it’s an installation question - all the installation questions are free. That doesn’t cost anything but if you want to go something beyond that, you know, if you've got issues - there are two different plans we've got.  one of them is what we call the twelve-twelve plan. It can be ether 12 incidents or 12 months, whichever comes first. You can buy technical support for 99 bucks. Or, if it’s just a single incident, you can buy a single incident for 25 bucks. If you don't need tech support you don’t have to buy it at all. So, if you don't really care about the synthesizers or tech support, you know, it’s completely free. If you want a synthesizer it might cost you a few dollars but, I'll not a lot. So it's very, very affordable. If you want that extra stuff…

Mark: Yeah, and quite honestly, just knowing what tech support costs and stuff like that can look like, it seems like you guys really modeled those costs for an individual. Those have got to be almost non-considerations for a business. And it's a very… price very well for, I think, an individual. If they were to run into a big issue and have question.

Jeremy: Yeah, and if some of the businesses, if they still want the unlimited text report – we’re still selling the retail version of Window-eyes, if somebody really wants that you know they, could buy the retail versions to get unlimited text support.  But, you're right we wanted to make sure that support was affordable for the individual because we didn't want a product that was at no cost out there, and then make support completely unaffordable. It doesn't make any sense. So, we provided those ways and then, for people who don't know, we have free tech support available through are GB micro email lists now, but you can sign up for it gwmicro.com/lists and we actually monitor that. There are other users there. So, that's another way without having to pay for support to be able to get it. It may not be as quick a response as calling when you pay for support, but still there's another method out there to get it.

Mark: Yeah, lot of times, I know for me, when I need support, I don't  necessarily need something right away - I just got something that's not quite working right now, I'd like to get it fixed, yes, oh that's, you know, eighty  percent of the time that kind of support works fine. Anyways, you know.

Jeremy: It usually doing a Google search - figure it out.

Mark: Oh yeah… how do we exist without Google searches before…any question, you know, that or, you know, who's that actor I just saw on that show… Google takes care of it for you, you know.

Jeremy: It’s amazing the amount of information at your fingertips,

Mark: And, now if you doing that off your Windows machine, you can use Window-eyes to read the answer.

Jeremy: Yeah, absolutely… absolutely

Mark: So, before we wrap this up, the in interesting thing about having you on this podcast, is that you're not just the guy that helped put all this together but your somebody who actually probably uses the product right?

Jeremy: Yeah.

Mark: So, talk to me about how… new I'm sure you've had access to Window-eyes because you work for GW Micro so I'm guessing it was there for you ahead of time, right?

Jeremy: Yeah.

Mark: But, talk to me from the perspective of somebody who really does rely on this kinda technology. You know, just how it makes you feel and how it really just changes your daily experience you know?

Jeremy: For me it's, wow, it's almost an indescribable feeling, because it's something that's been so close to my heart for such a long time. And I, like said earlier, I started losing my sight when I was 18, and that's about the time I got introduced to GW Micro is back in the1998 I guess. Seems like so long ago now. And, I started up being introduced to Window-eyes then. I’ve been with GW Micro nine years, actually, nine years tomorrow.  Actually, to the day. And, have been working in training, and now I direct the training department and so it's been a neet experience to be able to train people over the years. And, now to go back to the people that haven’t had access to it, and be able to say, “Look, you can use the same stuff that I've been using to work in my professional life.” And it’s not going to cost you a dime. To be able to tell that to somebody, yeah, I mean that's like you kinda feel a little bit like Oprah, you know, “you can Window-eyes!”

Mark: Yeah, well and, I think, that's a really good point because, I think that, you know lots of times, we can to sit around and we imagine that people want to have advantages, you know - I've got a faster car than you; I've got this, I’ve got that. But it's really not the case. I think that when, you know, a person like yourself has access to something like window-eyes and its working so well for you, that all you want is for everybody be  able to have that kinda access, you know. That’s really human nature – is that you wanna share that out. So, I just imagine…I'm just so happy for you as an individual and for the company in general and for all the other people. And we talked about this before: these are people that you don't… not just the people that you go to lunch with on a Friday afternoon, but these are people out there that you don’t know, now, that you're making an impact on. And it's just an incredible.

Jeremy: Yeah, we have people come up to us in shows and say, “I’d really like that but I just can’t afford it.” And, we had made some payment plans available to try and alleviate that to the best of our ability. But, when you can make something available at almost literally no cost it’s… it's just a whole different ballgame. And as anybody in the blindness community knows - that this community is so small, you know. The people who our customers… they're not just our customers, they are friends, you know. We hang out together we spend time together and GW has been really well known for listening to customers for a long time and I am expecting that to continue to be that way. And we've just always been known as very customer sensitive. And, this is just going to opened so many doors for people and, hopefully, allow them to become, kind of, what I consider the GW micro family. Because, it's not just,,, you know, we're not here because this is a job, we're here because this is a passion. Yeah, you know, we have to keep the lights on and we have to eat, but we do this because we love it. And, now that we can share that passion with the world… I mean, Wow, phenomenal absolutely phenomenal. That's unbelievable.

Mark: I mean it's… you’ve got to be happy to come to work every day and do this kind of work and I can tell you that there's… I’m happy you come in do it to, you know what I mean. But there's a there's a lot of people out there that are… you know, I'm fortunate to have my site so  I'm not as impacted as his some of these other people. So, I can’t even begin to relate to how they must feel hearing news like this. And, you know, the other thing I think worth, sorta, pointing out: is that… that makes me feel good. I like it when it seems like these deals have worked out from a business standpoint as well. That free is wonderful but it's also got to be sustainable. And, I think that it sounds like Window-eyes in a nice spot right now where it's free to people but the business end of it has been worked out so that you're going to continue to improve the product, continue have  updates, continue to be able to have employees  come to work. And all that stuff is gonna keep moving forward and keep a  great great product even getting better and better.

Jeremy: Cuz, there's a big difference between free and open source, right. Opensource - well that's great and that kinda a nice academic exercise… It's not a sustainable business model…

Mark: …that is exactly right…

Jeremy: …you can’t make that happen and you can’t sustain your business model eventually you leave the marketplace and your customers that we're taking advantage of that open source software will just, you know, they’ll go away and I'll be left without a product. And, maybe that doesn't happen all the time but, I mean, that’s the whole idea of capitalism, right, to be able to make a profit to stay in business.

Mark: Yeah.

Jeremy: We have to serve people. We want to serve people with everything that we have and a this enables us to do that at a really, really high level and now… just.. it's a really good deal.

Mark:  Yeah, well good for you guys. I just think this whole thing is fantastic and anything else you want to add before we sign off?

Jeremy: I guess, again I'd encourage people to go to windoweyesforoffice.com or check us out at gwmicro,com. If you follow us or if you're on Twitter… part of the Twitterverse you can go and follower us @GWmicro or  Facebook.co/gwmicro or YouTube.com/gwmicro all sorts of ways to follow us. Or if, you've got questions, give us a ring 260-489-3671 and I am ecstatic for this and I cannot wait to go to the shows and talk to everybody in person about this.

Mark: …that’s going to be great…

Jeremy: for those who are out there, who haven't tried Window-eyes, try it out. And, like I said, we'd love to have you as part of the GW family. So give it a shot.

Mark: Yeah, it's gonna feel good  when you do talk to those people in  person. I guarantee.

Jeremy: Yeah, yeah… absolutely.

Mark: All right, well thank you so much. I really appreciate you being on and even more so appreciate the work you guys are doing over there with Window-eyes and bringing it to people for free. It's just, it's just great so thank you.

Jeremy: Well thanks for having me has been fantastic to be here thanks for everything you do to it's a great service that interactive accessibility does.

Mark: Well we appreciate it. Thanks. This is Mark Miller thanking Jeremy Curry and reminding you to keep it accessible.

Announcer: The IAP - Interactive Accessibility Podcast brought to you by Interactive Accessibility, the accessibility experts. You can find their Access Matters Blog at Interactiveaccessibility.com/blog


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