OutStart and HotLava Software – mLearning is Going Mainsteam


What do you use your mobile phone for?

Odds are increasing that you use it for much more that simply making phone calls.  Today’s mobile devices are now platforms for e-mail, messaging, surfing the web, multimedia entertainment, gaming, personal organization, wayfinding (GPS), and even shopping.

You would be hard pressed to find an area of personal technology experiencing as much intensive innovation right now as in mobile.  Mobile devises of all sorts are now ubiquitous.  Smartphones and netbooks are changing our expectations of what we can and should be able to access or do – in the palm of our hands and away from our desks. The continuing transition to 3G and then 4G networks will make the distinction between wired and wireless increasingly meaningless. 

In the past week, we have seen:

At the same time:

  • – Google continues to grow its open OS for mobile devices: Android
  • Research in Motion’s Blackberry devices are as popular with the business world as ever.
  • Nokia is still the best selling provider worldwide and their Symbian OS is transitioning to open source.

Given the pace of innovation with mobile devices and their place in today’s business environment, it only makes sense that the use of these devices as a primary means of providing access to on-demand knowledge and learning is becoming mainstream. In many organizations, mobile devices are more prevalent than PCs. It only stands to reason that companies are deciding that m-learning is no longer just something that the high-tech companies can do. 

In our ongoing research into the evolution of the modern High Impact Learning Organization™ (High Impact Learning Practices: The Operating Guide for the Modern Enterprise Learning Function will be out later this month!), we have noted a marked increase in the usage and importance of mobile learning (mlearning). In fact, our data shows that the success use of mobile learning as well as podcasting & syndication technologies such as RSS for learning are both indicative of modern, High Impact Learning Organizations.  In organizations such as Sun Microsystems, AT&T, the Federal Reserve, several major financial services firms, and several large retailers, mobile devices are being used to distribute both lightweight on-demand information for performance support and internal communications purposes as well as formal, tracked courseware to meet compliance training requirements.

In response we are now seeing activity in the learning provider market as companies move to meet the increased demand for mlearning.

Last year Research In Motion acquired Chalk Media – an early innovator in mobile learning delivery for the Blackberry.  Providers such RIM and Apple have been very involved in helping learning industry companies such as Giunti Labs, CertPoint, and Intuition to develop mlearning applications and content for their devices.


Then yesterday Outstart, learning industry veteran and leader in the LCMS and social learning spaces, announced its merger with HotLava Software – a maker of mobile learning content development and distribution technologies.

HotLava brings:

  • – Hot Lava Mobile Desktop Authoring
    • – An easy-to-use desktop authoring tool for building content once for deployment across 98 percent of all mobile phones.
  • – Hot Lava Mobile Delivery and Tracking
    • – Delivers content via WAP or directly to mobile devices.
    • – Automatically tracks: who accesses mobile content; how often they access the content; a learner’s ID; and, the scores from surveys and quizzes thus  providing feedback to an instructor, learner or even a learning management system.

I recently had a chance to see a demo of HotLava’s development tool in action, and I have to say it is impressive.  On its face it resembles most any other desktop e-learning development tool, but it makes developing content within the specialized constraints of mobile delivery much easier.  An important plus, it is also device neutral.  Each of the thousands of mobile devices out there each bring a unique set of physical and technological requirements that have to met.  HotLava’s tool treats different devices as “skins” that can be applied to the developed content.  The tool allows you to preview the finished content in a virtual facsimile of each target device.


From Outstart’s press release:
“From executives to yak herders, mobile devices are in the hands of billions of people around the globe,” said Bob Sanregret, CEO of Hot Lava Software.  “If forced to choose, people would rather leave their house without their car keys than without their mobile device.  Mobile applications have tremendous reach and a vast array of uses; we developed Hot Lava Mobile to serve this incredible market."

After the deals completion, the new company will operate under the Oustart name.  Massood Zarrabian continues as CEO and president of OutStart, while Bob Sanregret, CEO of Hot Lava Software, becomes vice president of the OutStart Hot Lava Mobile business unit. OutStart intends to integrate the HotLava technologies with each of its current major platforms, including LCMS (Evolution and ForceTen), social software (Participate), training management (TrainingEdge), and sales readiness (SellingEdge).  OutStart will also continue to offer Hot Lava Mobile as a stand-alone solution.

This is the second major round of recent m&a activity for Outstart.  The company combined with fellow LCMS provide Eedo Knowledgeware at the end of last summer.


Recent conversations with other providers are confirming what Outstart saw in deciding to do this deal: mobile learning is becoming a major area of growth in the learning industry.  What about in your organization?  Comments please.


Dani Johnson

Dani Johnson, Vice President, Learning & Development Research, writes about the evolving L&D function. Specifically, she focuses on the necessary changes in how L&D approaches its responsibilities and allocates its resources (people, time, and money) to have a lasting effect on both organizations and individuals.

3 thoughts on “OutStart and HotLava Software – mLearning is Going Mainsteam

  1. Interesting article David, Mobile learning seems like a great medium to utilize in the learning industry. The difficult part that I see in large companies is that the software and hardware to enable such mobile learning is still relatively expensive, and providing and maintaining that hardware on a large scale is somewhat daunting.

    Integration seems to be the key word as we move forward learning technology, so it will be great to see where these companies take it in the next couple years.

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