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Kayye's Krystal Ball - v.06

It's back. By Gary Kayye, CTS

Its back.

Welcome to my seventh annual Krystal Ball feature article about predictions for the upcoming year for Professional AV, and even some Home AV technology, trends and products.  If youre a regular reader of this column, then you know that each year I actually start by reviewing my predictions from last years column (Kayyes Krystal Ball for 2005 ran in the December 20, 2004 issue of Sound & Communications magazine) and in rAVe Pro Edition -- http://www.ravepro.com/issues/2005/01/vol3iss1/#feature1 .

I do it this way because I remember as a kid watching those TV psychics selling their predictions to viewers who called in with their credit card numbers.  Every year, they would reappear on TV selling the next years predictions.  But, I could never remember what they predicted to see if they were right.  I always wanted them to remind us of their predictions from the previous year so I could see if it was worth the price.

In this case, Im free.  You didnt pay to read this, so keep that in perspective. But, if I may say so myself, over the past six years, Ive actually done a pretty good job. Sure, this isnt the same as predicting the date and time of the Apocalypse, or how much ticket prices will be by the time Star Wars 3D hits theaters. But it does take quite a bit of research (and a lot of insider contacts spilling the beans to me and telling me stuff that theyre not supposed to say).

So, on to the review of the 2005 predictions, and then I will jump into my predictions for 2006. 

Lets get started:

A Review of 2005
Digital Content Servers: Specifically, I said the future of AV integration would make its debut in 2005 in the form of digital content servers.  One for one, so far.  Digital content servers, indeed, debuted, with products like Grass Valleys Turbo, AMXs audio and video MAX servers, Crestrons audio-based Adagio line and a few other manufacturers out there with basically network-connected giant hard drives that can store video, audio and even computer and HD content (sort of like a TiVo for the office). And everyones talking about them.  AV dealers are starting to see and understand the impact they will have in basically eliminating the need for source devices.  No need to haul in a laptop to a room, or have a DVD player, VCR or CD player wired up in every room in a facility eventually all this stuff will be served via the network wherever you want and whenever you want.  Bandwidth will be the key to adoption rates and how quickly the sources die a rapid death. Well talk about that a bit later. 

I predicted that 2005 would be the year you finally saw the DVI and HDMI connector and you probably used it:  Well, if you take a look at companies like Altinex, Kramer, Extron, Liberty and TVOne, its obvious DVI and HDMI are all over the ProAVand HomeAV markets as they all went from having NO DVI and NO HDMI products in 2004 to having full lines in 2005.  In addition, start-ups like DVIGear who specialize in ONLY DVI and HDMI -- are all of a sudden in the market.  Look, whether you like it or not, DVI and HDMI are here to stay and, will in fact, be THE INDUSTRY standard way to route high resolution computer and HDTV signals by 2008.  The FCC is mandating that in the home, and since HomeAV manufacturers are now steering the ProAV ship, we will be the recipients of this switchover as well.  More than 90 percent% of all projectors manufactured after October 2005 have DVI inputs and now more than 40 percent of the computer market, 55 percent of the DVD player market and 100 percent of the set-top box market output DVI (or HDMI) signals from their back panels.

The small ProAV System will be come a commodity: InFocus is selling ProAV ?systems, including what they call ?Install-In-A-Box through CDW.  It includes a projector, a screen, a control system and all the cabling required to do small conference rooms.  Go see it for yourself, its at http://www.cdw.com/shop/products/default.aspx?EDC=798157 and has a list price, for all of it, of only $3,899 (as of November 2005).  Dell is doing the same thing.

I am not saying we can kiss the small systems market goodbye. But if you dont offer a ?kit or prepackaged solution, you had better start, quickly.  Dell and CDW are two of the largest technology retailers in the world and if its not the InFocus solution, theyll be selling someones solution, for sure.  The small system market is quickly becoming a commodity.  On the bright side, take a look at what Crestron (with the iMedia line) and Extron (with the MediaManager line) have done to help ProAV integrators get into that space, fast.  Many might argue that they are helping companies like Dell and CDW, but interestingly enough, they both still support the ProAV channel, exclusively.  Either stop whining about this market becoming a commodity or stop selling to that part of the market and focus on the more profitable stuff that still requires the expertise you have.

I predicted that Apples leading edge style and look would have an effect on our market:

Apples a great example of a company thats leading by marketing, style and cool something other than price.  They have the most expensive MP3 player on the market and it, ironically, has the largest market share.  Still dont believe that you can sell based on other factors than price?  Read Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore.  But, in the mean time, did you realize that Apple actually sells direct to the customer for a price higher than any, YES, ANY, other comparable model thats Windows-based?  In fact, you can actually buy Apple PCs, laptops and screens online cheaper than you can in the stores and they still add new retail stores every day.  I call it the Target factor.  Target is the most expensive discount retailer in the world and they keep growing in market share.  Not everyone buys on price.

As far as style goes, Apple is the innovator there.  In fact, the competition is so un-creative that to add style to their lines, they actually copy the look of the Apple computer.  Every time Apple changes the look slightly, they change it like Apple did.  Wheres the creativity in that?  This is a major me-too market.  As far as the ProAV manufacturers go, Sonys new line of Bravia LCDs suck (as far as physical design goes - image quality is amazing).  Sharps LCDs are, in my opinion the best quality out there, but they look BORING.  Lets step it up a notch.   Want to see the first creatively-designed AV product that wasnt designed by Apple (or wasnt an Apple knock-off)?  Check out Optomas MovieTime DVD-integrated projector: http://www.optomausa.com/product_detail.asp?product_id=24.   The picture quality still has a ways to go, but the style of this is close to awesome. Its especially awesome compared to the only two competitors, HP and Epson. The designs are boxier than even the most industrial of projectors. Optoma with its great design likely outsells them, even though HP and Epson offer better specs and bundle in more accessories. 

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Related Keywords:Krystal Ball, predictions, Professional AV, Home AV technology, trends, products, Gary Kayye

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