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Horse Race: The Whiteboard Jungle

Schools nationwide have been replacing their blackboards with digital whiteboards or "smartboards". Here's a look at the players in the industry.

Smart's biggest challenger is Promethean USA, which is based in Alpharetta, Georgia. The company says its Activboards are more intuitive than Smart's system. The Activboard technology is supported by a website that shares innovative curriculum ideas among 200,000 registered users, and it is priced in the same range as Smart's product line.

Boards Sold in 2008*: 54,000

eInstruction, a company in Denton, Texas, links interactive whiteboards to hand-held voting systems (think Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?). Students can vote on the answer to a question, allowing their teacher to gauge comprehension. The voting system "is one of the next must-haves," says Colin Messenger, an analyst with Futuresource, a research firm.

Boards Sold in 2008: 10,000

Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania-based Numonics is nearly 40 years old, and it has been focusing on the interactive-whiteboard market since 1993, when CEO Al Basilicato led a buyout of the company. The business goes after smaller contracts and, by offering customers online training, it "sells the benefit of having a more personal relationship with the company," says Basilicato.

Boards Sold in 2008: 9,000

Why buy an interactive whiteboard when you can transform a regular whiteboard into one for roughly half the price? That's the question being posed by Luidia, a San Carlos, California, company that produces a portable device called the eBeam, which renders whiteboard projections interactive. 3M, Hitachi, and NEC use Luidia's technology in their equipment.

Units Sold in 2008: 25,000

The Line: Promethean USA has the most recognized brand in the market after Smart Technologies. Interest in hand-held voting systems could push eInstruction to the front of the pack. But as the weak economy forces schools to cut budgets, Luidia -- the low-cost option -- should accelerate down the stretch.

*All figures represent units sold in the U.S. from January to September 2008.

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