It’s time to change business strategy for marketing the $100+ graphing calculator!
Graphing calculators were more popular among the education industry during the past three decades, and Texas Instruments dominated the market with their best-selling graphing calculator, the TI-84. However, the market has changed a lot, and the millennium technological improvement with smartphones and new applications threats the monopoly of the company.
The graphing calculators become outdated instruments without adjusting to the new requirements. Since its first appearance in 2004, the TI 84 did not change considerably. It still includes 24 kilobytes of RAM, a 96×64 pixel screen, and a power system of 4 AAA batteries. Therefore modern technological devices managed to invade the traditional old pattern calculator, although its price remains high as pervious, while its components are cheaper in the present market.
The rise of the graphing calculator
During the late 1980s the device was a top invention as the electronics companies identified the need for a calculator that could graph equations in the education field. Both Casio and Sharp introduced calculators during the mid of 1980s. However, Texas Instruments dominated the market after they released the TI-81, those graphing calculators.
In the beginning, TI faced some issues in promoting their product, because there is no need for such graphing calculators as the students were experts in drawing graphs on paper by using more straightforward handheld calculators. The company strategically defeated these issues and other threatening companies.
Further, they took a few prominent actions to become dominant. The company established partnerships with big textbook companies and accordingly introduced integrated TI-specific exercises.
As Open Secrets and ProPublica data reveal, Texas Instruments paid lobbyists to pursue the Department of Education every year from 2005 to 2009 when the mobile technology and apps were becoming more famous.
Sometimes they took some strict actions to compete with the rivalries. They campaigned against devices with touch screens, internet connection, and QWERTY keyboards. At the same time, they even lobbied the Texas legislature to make it compulsory for all students to take Algebra II, a course that requires a TI graphing calculator. Then TI introduced a robust teacher training program, launched a help hotline, and organized conferences with hands-on demonstrations.
Expensive TI graphing calculators
Even though there are many affordable alternative devices are available in the market; still, the price of TI graphing calculators are considered high.
TI now maintains an estimated 80% market share of the international graphing calculator market. As mentioned earlier, the TI-84 Plus is the best seller in the company. The device was introduced in 2004 for the price of around $120. From those days onwards, the expenditure of electronic components has decreased. However, TI 84 does not reduce its rate, and it remains a high price as earlier. Although the price is questionable, the president of TI Education Technology, Peter Balyta justifies their action stating “A TI calculator is a one-time investment in a student’s future that takes them from middle school math and science classes through college, as well as into the important exams they take along the way,”
Nevertheless, some students are against the above statement. As they further describe the TI graphing calculators are so expensive in comparison to other alternative devices. Since their teachers make them compulsory, they have no other option to implement.
TI Company takes advantage of anti-smart phone laws passed in certain districts. Some teachers make IT graphing calculators mandatory, and some teachers strictly force students to purchase them.
A group of teachers after years of training and support accept alternative tools, like free smartphones and apps.
The combat of making graphing calculators free
A Yale math grad named Eli Luberoff identified considerable discrimination in the system since all of the students are not in the position to afford for a graphing calculator. Thus Luberoff created Desmos. It is a free graphing calculator application for desktop and mobile. Today, it is a top success with more recommendations and acceptance. Likewise, more than 40m students and teachers use it. He further states on his project that it is the opposite of TI’s, and their model is to give away for free to students, and charge textbook companies to integrate it.” Further, middle and high school math textbook publishers like Mcgraw Hill have recently licensed technology from Desmos. Screenshots of TI-84 buttons were on the pages of the textbooks earlier, and now they are transferred into interactive exercises on the free Desmos app.
However, though students are attracted to the new system, it is a real battle to attract the teachers up to the same level, because they are used to the technology of graphing calculators for more than 20 years.
Even TI Company also emphasizes on several problems with free alternatives like Desmos. As they mentioned, this is an extra expenditure for schools that they have to spend on IT support broadband internet, tablets, and laptops, etc. On the other hand, schools in rural areas face enormous difficulties in having internet access.
Change is still a dream
In present-day, 90% of the teacher in the United States still depends on the TI calculators, and only 10% of teachers encourage modern applications and software as their primary math tool. TI also confirmed that still; the graphing calculators are the compatible device by quoting a study that they funded.
There are some contrasting theories also. According to them, graphing calculator sales has been decreased by 15% YOY during recent years. We cannot specifically say how much of this decline can be attributed specifically to calculators. But it is an indicator to reveal that the devices may not be popular and among the best seller as they used to.
Anyway, a large company like Texas Instruments should understand and adjust to the new technological changes. They held the empire of calculators for more than three decades, and now it is time to cede to the era of software and mobile applications. In contrast, TI does not face a massive crash, because Calculators create only a tiny fraction of TI’s $15.8B annual revenue. And they have earned huge income from their amazing device of TI-84.