Lenovo acquires Stoneware, boosts cloud offerings


Cloud computing can help tie together different devices for the ed-tech market.

In a move to expand its cloud computing solutions and extend learning opportunities to students, Lenovo on Sept. 18 announced that it is acquiring educational technology provider Stoneware Inc.

Stoneware sells a number of cloud-oriented products to schools. Its webNetwork service, which uses a browser-based interface to give users access to all their applications and files in the cloud with a single sign-on, has been rebranded as Secure Cloud Access. LanSchool, which Stoneware itself acquired last year, is the company’s classroom management solution.

Those products reportedly serve a combined 5 million users, mostly in education.

Stoneware CEO Ben Cahoon said the chance to expand the company’s cloud computing capabilities even further is “one of the key reasons for the acquisition.”

Lenovo says its “four screen strategy” plays an integral role in the acquisition as well. The “four screen strategy” revolves around laptops/PCs, smart phones, tablets, and “smart TVs.”

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“We really see cloud computing as the glue that brings all these devices together,” Cahoon said.

Lenovo’s Secure Cloud Access allows schools to create their own private or private-public clouds to deploy applications and other services in a “unified cloud.” Students, teachers, administrators, and parents can use one password to access files, applications, and reports.

“The role of technology should be to fundamentally improve learning outcomes,” said Sam Morris, executive of worldwide education for Lenovo. Technology can be a burden if not properly installed or maintained, he said, and its aim should be to improve teaching and learning and boost operational efficiencies.

Morris said the Stoneware acquisition will meet schools’ needs by addressing the proliferation of devices in today’s classrooms.

Schools invest in educational technology, but students don’t necessarily have access to the same type of technology at home. Smart phones seem to be particularly popular as students’ personal devices.

Secure Cloud Access will let students have access to all or many of the same features they access through school-based technology. The application scales the experience to the device, so that users still have a unified experience. Some features might be limited, but students can expand their learning and work on important projects using personal devices.

The acquisition “offers the opportunity to grow and improve … [and] raise the capability of devices,” Morris said, adding that Stoneware’s offerings will boost efficiency because mobile devices present a challenge when it comes to accessing files and certain applications. “The browser is the gateway” to a unified user experience, he said.

“Adding Stoneware cloud computing into the Lenovo lineup presents a significant opportunity to leverage their success, and enhance our PC Plus offerings—all to the benefit of our customers,” said Peter Hortensius, senior vice president of Lenovo and president of the company’s Product Group.

“We are pleased to be joining forces with Lenovo,” said Rick German, Stoneware’s CEO.

Financial details of the acquisition have not been disclosed, but no layoffs are expected. The Stoneware team will remain in Indiana and Utah and will continue to sell both webNetwork and LanSchool.

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Laura Ascione

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