Take good specialized components, collect, mix and combine the way you want. The open standards like content syndication with RSS and XML-RPC for web servces make it cheaper and even possible.
We enable this with Dicole to some degree. We call it easy (and cheap) web application integration. More of it later. The problem with a picture like this is that the integration of such services usually requires some programmer to construct the interfaces into the VLE, which is costly and time consuming. Also, interfaces do change. I want this process to be as simple as possible for a teacher to do it herself. Still some work to do on that field but I guess the future VLE is not that far away in the future…
Are traditional VLE providers going to support a more open and more component oriented approach to VLE construction for customers? Absolutely not. it’s against their lock-in plan. In this case they are not controlling the pieces, say webmail, photo album or ePortfolio. It’s their business to provide uhm.. the best proprietary combination of such tools to their customers and lock competitors out. Unfortunately this is not the benefit of the customer.
I don’t have a business problem like this because I’m not making money out of the components. I also have an Open Source platform for creating such loosely joined group or personal environments. I can sell my expertise of Open Source tools and social software as a service to help finding good components, mix good components and create the customized targeted solution. Cheaply and affordably.