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POV: Talking Trends at InfoComm 05

A cross section of professional audiovisual and communication industry leaders explored current and future trends in technology development last month

POV: Talking Trends at InfoComm 05

Jul 1, 2005 12:00 PM

A cross section of professional audiovisual and communication industry leaders explored current and future trends in technology development last month at the InfoComm 05 Manufacturers Industry Forum in Las Vegas. The discussion was a lively debate, including not only responses from the panel, but input from audience members as well.

The forum’s participants identified specific, key trends that audiovisual and communications professionals need to address in order to continue growth and success. Among the trends noted were convergence, applications integration, Internet communications, content management, new consumer technologies, and the desire for simplicity.

“We need to understand how to position and reposition our companies to take advantage of the next generation of technology, and be open minded about how the world is changing,” said Bob Hagerty, CEO of Polycom. “There’s a pot of gold if we can do it.”

In addition to Hagerty, the speakers at the Forum consisted of: Rashid M. Skaf, president and COO of AMX Corporation; Martin de Prycker, CEO of Barco; Robert Mueller, executive vice president and COO of JVC; and Al Hershner, vice president and general manager, U.S. Business Unit of Shure. Gary Kayye, CTS, chief visionary of Kayye Consulting, served as moderator of the event.

Convergence and the challenge of new technologies dominated the speakers’ comments. “Accelerating and converging technologies are at the top of our own list,” observed Hershner.

Skaf agreed, adding, “We’ll see a lot of convergence in a lot of different industries coming together.”

“Convergence is not a trend; it’s a necessity,” said Mueller. “To maintain a competitive lead in exotic technologies takes a lot. So a lot of key devices are driven by the consumer market, because that market offers the kind of scale necessary for profits.”

A key issue on the minds of both panelists and attendees was change. “I don’t see a clear trend other than great turbulence,” said Mueller, although he and the other panelists were confident that what they described as “the distribution ecosystem” would learn to adapt.

“The role of the dealer will become more important as time passes — especially dealers who can bring value-added services to their customers,” said Skaf.

In this respect, Mueller noted, “ICIA has a tremendous resource in the InfoComm Academy and its ability to help professionals stay abreast of the leading technologies.”

Skaf concurred, saying, “There will always be a demand for people who can do specialized tasks and services, or who can add value to products.”

Moderator Gary Kayye asked panelists if they felt the industry was doing as good a job on the audio side as in other areas. The question elicited a frank “Not yet,” from Hershner. “We have sometimes felt like the poor stepchild to video. … Now, however, we’re living through the convergence of audio and video, and ICIA has stepped up nicely. There is a ways to go, but I’m pleased with the support we’re getting.”

Regarding the convergence of audio, video, and data, Hagerty noted, “We need to be able to do all three exceptionally well.” This statement led to a discussion about operational simplicity and what many perceive as an increasing demand for complex products that work simply — even intuitively. Several panelists agreed this would be one of the industry’s biggest challenges.

“Making things easy is difficult, but that’s the future and we have to live with it,” said Skaf. “We are doubling the innovation level in the whole industry. Most of our profits now come from products that didn’t exist two years ago.”

“It’s very important to keep our finger on the pulse of the market and know what it is that needs to be easy,” said Mueller.

“The world is changing at a very rapid rate,” Hagerty added. “We need to be very open to the innovation that’s coming.”

The forum ended with a rapid-fire survey of each panelist’s choice for the “coolest new technology.” Skaf nominated Apple’s iPod, which he praised for its ability, features and convenience. He also gave kudos to iPod’s creators for their understanding of human behavior.

Prycker selected Skype software, from Skype Technologies, which is a voice over Internet telephone protocol. However, Prycker added, “But, I was going to say iPod.”

Mueller cited the HD transformation, while Hagerty voted for Microsoft’s new presentation engine. Hershner gave another nod to Apple for its suite of iLife applications. Kayye concurred, calling Apple’s iTunes free music software “a great killer application that even nine-year-old kids can use.”

Concluded Hershner, “This notion of the consumer market overlapping the professional market is going to put tremendous pressure on all of us.”

Article courtesy ofInternational Communications Industries Association, Inc. (ICIA).

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