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Live From infoComm: Attendance Record Broken

Also: A Mid-Year Review of My 2005 Predictions By Gary Kayye, CTS

ICIA announced another record attendance here at the show this week, with a more than 10 percent increase over last year, totaling 25,821 as of Thursday. Expect the final numbers to be even more impressive.

Why is it, when some other industries are seeing declines, is InfoComm flourishing?

First, ICIA management had the insight the past couple of years to include other conferences under the InfoComm umbrella. If youre here at the show and havent seen the EduComm area, do see it. Thats a great example.

The pavilions, such as digital signage, streaming media, residential, and more, are, at the same time, very well delineated as such yet the individual booths are completely integrated with the show floor rather than being isolated. That makes the pavilions very easy to find without taking pass-by traffic away from the individual booths.

The educational offerings are more plentiful and better than ever, too, and more system integrators and end-users are looking to InfoComm as the primary training venues these days. In fact, rAVe did a non-scientific poll before the show, and of the dozen or so attendees we interviewed, we found that most were attending classes, and most were looking for at least one specific technology solution.

Ted Collier and Jacob Ortiz of Audio Visual Solutions, a Houston-based systems integrator, for example, both mentioned the IP courses first when asked what they were anticipating.

?Were also looking at whats going on in digital signage because there are so many variations, says Collier. ?There are variations in price, and variations in what the vendors offer. Some just sell software and give you the boxes for free, and some sell you the boxes but you get free software. Were looking to see what comprehensive solutions are here this year.

Adds Ortiz: ?Also, some do data great but cant do graphics and then you have some that do graphics but not data. There are also network variances, some you cant even manage on a network.

Al Ugoji, who does college admissions counseling in Fairhope, Ala. schools, is currently using his Dell Axim handheld for remote presentations and classes. ?Im looking for a handheld, interactive for education. Good idea.

As far as the show floor, it really wasnt long ago that InfoComm had its share of Mom and Pop shops with tradeshow booths they built in their garages as family projects. No offense to Mom and Pop, but they were pretty bad. Not so, any longer. Every booth we saw was quite professional. Sure, the large ones are as impressive as ever but the smaller ones look great, too. Its as if professionalism rose right in proportion with market acceptance, isnt it?

Crystal Ball, Six Months Removed
Its that time of year again. The year is half way over and its time to review my 2005 predictions.

Each December, I write a ?crystal ball-style article that addresses products, technologies and trends that I believe will make an impact in the upcoming year. And, each year, about half way through the year, I take the opportunity to review the years predictions and see how well (or badly) Im doing so far.

So, here it goes: The 2005 Predictions

Digital Content Servers: In the column, I said, ?the future of AV integration will make its debut in 2005 in the form of digital content servers. Well, I was right on target. If you havent seen it already, take a look at Grass Valleys Turbo product. Its exactly what I have been saying is coming a networkable TiVo-like video server that allows for computer data (i.e. PowerPoint, etc.) files, video files and even native resolution HD video to be stored and ?served to a user. Grass Valleys already set the bar for other content server manufacturers to shoot for. Good luck.

DVI and HDMI: In Decembers column I pointed out, ?the DVI connectors been here for four years. Its just that you havent connected to it yet. But as the trend of consumer technologies steering (and driving) professional AV technologies continues, 2005 will be the year you finally use that digital connector. DVI and HDMI: The DVI connectors been here for four years. Its just that you havent connected to it yet. But as the trend of consumer technologies steering (and driving) professional AV technologies continues, 2005 will be the year you finally use that digital connector.

Well, EVERY flat panel display introduced in 2005, so far, has had either an HDMI or a DVI port for digital connectivity. Companies like DVIGear and Gefen enjoyed over 200% growth the first six months of the year already and much of that coming from the ProAV space. In fact, the largest AV system of the year was completely routed digitally. But, the HomeAV market is still adopting the HDMI connectivity standard a lot faster than the ProAV market.

The Small ProAV System Commodity: I pointed out that, ?Unfortunately for the ProAV Dealer, the day of the ProAV System-in-a-Box is coming in 2005. That day has arrived in the form of a pre-packaged system solution that InFocus is marketing exclusively (for now) through CDW. But, I was wrong in saying ?unfortunately for the ProAV dealer. Dealers can leverage this new, huge, customer base by not only selling them follow-up services but also offering service contracts for the hundreds of systems that will be sold each month through this distribution channel. I will write more about this as the year moves forward, but this could be a lot like the LCD Panel of the 1980s a product that brought a whole lot of people into the ProAV market that would have never found us had it not been for the cheap, easy-to-use LCD panel.  

Apple Style: In my 2005 predictions, I pondered the possibility that Apples renowned design style will trickle into the R&D departments of manufacturers in our market and that we will start to even choose product based on looks. Well, its getting better, but weve got a long way to go to get there. Probably the best-looking projectors are coming from little known, Norway-based, Projection Design. And, I am impressed with the look of the new Sharp Aquos line of LCD TVs.

The Electrograph Factor: I predicted the emergence of the VAD (value added distributor) in recent years would transform the distribution channel in AV in 2005. No question about this one. Electrograph, Visual Solutions, ActiveLight and Stampede are all growing, right now, faster than the manufacturers they represent. This will continue.

The Plasma Surprise: I pointed out that I felt that ProAVs reliance on plasma, as a display technology will forever be altered in 2005 because of the LCD. Well, this one is harder to see the results of, yet. We do our annual dealer surveys at the end of the year so I dont have any official statistical analysis, but all but one manufacturer of both plasmas and LCDs told me this week that their LCD sales are growing faster than they predicted and that in some cases plasma sales are flat. But, they all agreed that the short supply of LCDs could be actually propping-up the plasma market.

Smaller and Brighter: I predicted that projectors would, again, get smaller and brighter. Well, an easy prediction, but I am astounded at the brightness levels coming out right now. One of the most impressive is in the form of Christies LX-50 projector thats the size of most average conference room install boxes but boasts at 5,000 ANSI lumen spec. Its amazing how bright they are getting so quickly. Could the portable 10K projector be far off?

802.11G Adoption: I predicted that the addition of 802.11g wireless networking to a host of ProAV products would finally allow for adoption of networked systems. The projector manufacturers have already shifted all new networked-projector introductions from the ?B standard to the faster ?G standard network. Epson, InFocus, Sony, NEC, Sharp theyre all coming out with ?g networked projectors. The best to, so far, is the Epson 745c.

Videoconferencing that works: I really felt that 2005 would bring us VTC systems that work, better and more reliably. But, so far, not yet. Dont get me wrong, they are far better than hey were, say, three years ago, but Ill reserve judgment on this one until the end of the year.

Finally, I finished the column with the thought that 2005 would be a big growth year for almost anyone. This is especially the case with companies in the Southeast and West coasts, but the Northeast is not growing much yet. And, the Midwest is still pretty flat. But, hang in there, I still believe its coming!

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Gary Kayye, CTS is Chief Visionary at Kayye Consulting, Inc., a Chapel Hill, NC-based marketing consulting firm that serves the ProAV and Home Theater markets. In addition to strategic marketing consulting, Kayye Consulting, Inc. is also a training development company. Gary can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] or through his Web site at www.kayye.com.
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