Apple has sold over 4.5 million iPads to educational institutions in the U.S., and more than eight million to educational institutions worldwide, and while the device has changed the way instructors teach and students learn, educators have been running into the challenge of accessing Flash-based educational content on the devices. It’s a problem YouWeb-incubated startup Rover is looking to tackle with its iPad browser built exclusively to help students access Flash-based content. The company announced today that it recently hit the one million download mark, and estimates that it is being used on almost a quarter of the iPads in K-12 schools.
The company also unveiled its monetization strategy today, launching its Rover Pro version. Originally free for both educators and content providers, the company will now charge content producers a subscription fee to continue supporting their material while still making it free for schools. Peter Relen, who both heads up YouWeb and acts as a co-founder of Rover, spoke with BetaKit about initially recognizing the opportunity and Rover’s success to date.
“We decided we would specifically build a browser, an edtech browser, that will actually let you browse any website,” said Relen in an interview. “The big difference between it and Safari and Chrome is that when you go to Flash-enabled content, on Safari you get a message saying sorry you can’t browse this. So that was our go-to-market strategy to bring the whole web to the classroom.”
Rover’s technology lets users view Flash content by streaming it like video through a cloud and networking infrastructure. Its new subscription-based model will come in three tiers, charging content providers based on the popularity of their sites, with the most popular paying anywhere between $5,000 to $20,000 a month and the lower tiers paying anywhere between $1,000 to $5,000 a month.
The company already has partners like Discovery, IXL Learning, Alfiesoft, and Math Playground on board, and will be providing a two-week grace period for publishers to sign up for a pro account, after which content providers with pro plans will be featured within the app. To encourage content providers to pay for the pro accounts, students who access content from non-subscribing providers will be prompted with a screen to send content providers an email to sign up. Relen also mentioned that in addition to having their content distributed to their target audience, it will also have featured content pages for its partners to further promote their content, which will be based on which tier they pay.
What makes Rover different from other Flash-enabled browsers for iPad like Photon, Skyfire, iSwifter or even popular browsers like Apple’s Safari or Google Chrome is that it was built being fully compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), works with a school’s existing internal IT infrastructure, and enables easy content filtering. These are all factors that Relen believes will help it be recognized as the default educational browsers for schools on iPads.
With Android tablets also not supporting Flash (though there are ways around that), Microsoft has recently stepped in saying Internet Explorer 10 will support Flash for devices running Windows 8. However, with iPads still being the preferred device among kids, Rover’s user base of educators and students will likely grow, though it’s using students to help it make money by emailing content providers about the pro version, which might not sit well with educators and parents. Whether content providers will jump on board with the company’s monetization plan is a big question mark, and will likely decide the app’s growth over the next year.