What Would You do With 39% Market Share? Epson Shakes Things Up!

EpsonI saw Sara’s story on Epson’s 39% marketshare as well as listened to Gary’s almost daily Rants and Raves episode on the subject and felt uniquely qualified to make a couple comments on the subject given some recent experiences.

I have had the opportunity to do a couple events with Epson in both Portland and San Francisco at their Epson Integrator Certification (EIC) events.  The EIC clinics are orchestrated by Epson’s Michael Cho, a Sr. Engineer who is quite an asset to their team and a nice guy too, despite his bizarre obsession with ostriches.  As a manufacturer of complimentary projector products, we have been excited to support them both on the Chief Mounts and DaLite Screens sides of the equation.

I’ll be quite honest, I have sold Epson in the past, especially their BrightLink interactive projector products, and I really didn’t expect to get much out of it.  However, I actually learned a lot about Epson’s direction and about their continually evolving value proposition to the integrator.

Many companies that achieve 39% market share may decide to ride the wave.  They adhere to the “stick with what got us here” mindset that eventually has them riding the wave right onto the shores of obscurity.  However, Epson, to their credit have decided to do the opposite, and look for the next wave instead.

If you have been following industry trends or looking at long term projections for equipment sales over the next 5 years you will see a couple things quite clearly.

The first one of those is that the number of standard throw projectors being sold has flattened out and is starting to decrease.  This is not surprising, seeing that as flat panels get larger and less expensive, people start to transition from 80 and 90″ projection screens and projectors to 80 and 90″ flat panels.

The second is that the number of short throw projectors being sold is on the rise.  With interactive technology being a hot commodity, short throw projectors mitigate silhouetting issues  when presenting at the screen.  They are also much less expensive than large format multi-touch displays currently, which makes them an attractive option, even in screen sizes under 100″.

So if standard throw projection is on the decline, why would I applaud Epson for introducing high lumen models?  Well, there is one caveat to the trend, and that is that large format projection is seeing growth.  Given the size of these screens, it is imperative to have high output projectors to achieve the brightness and contrast needed, so Epson has taken advantage of that trend and come up with a solution to compete with the traditional players in this field.

The other interesting thing about large format projection, is that in many cases, these screens have different aspect ratios.  They may be 32:9 or 48:9 or stacked vertically.  Epson has also taken this into consideration by building in edge blending tools into their Pro G series and Powerlite Pro projectors to make the products even more viable.

Finally, for those still hung up on the cost of consumables like projector bulbs, Epson’s ProG series is getting up to 7000 lumens from one lamp, instead of two like many of their competitors’ models use.

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On the interactive, short throw front, Epson has been in that heat for quite some time with BrightLink, so what’s the big deal about that now?

Well, there are some interesting developments in BrightLink Pro that again shed some light onto Epson’s ideas on continued market dominance.

First, Epson has added the ability to whiteboard without a connected PC.  The projector itself has memory and the whiteboard software on board, meaning you can come in the room, turn it on, and use the pen to start your meeting.  That’s a plus and a simpler path to standard whiteboard replacements, as you can also save or email your whiteboard sessions without a connected PC as long as you are on the network.

Second, there has been a real push toward collaboration in our industry as well.  Epson has integrated the ability to connect a PC to the network and then present either hardwired or wirelessly to up to four different Brightlink Pro projectors on the same network, either local or remote.  For those of you who don’t find that too impressive, let me add that this arrangement allows someone at each of the four locations to pick up an interactive pen, so that they can all annotate and manipulate the content, enabling true collaboration across the network.

The third thing Epson did was create an iProjection app for smart phones and tablets that allows users to connect to the network, choose a projector, and then present from their BYOD device.  They can still annotate on an overlay at the board or they can annotate on the screen of their BYOD device as well with their fingers.

Taking this a step further, Epson’s upcoming software release will allow multiple users (up to 50 if I remember correctly) to all share content via iProjection, and the facilitator can choose what content to display in multiple smaller windows through the projectors.  It is a lot like Mersive’s Solstice, without the need for their software as it will come free in the Epson suite shortly.  Oh yeah, and again each person sharing content can annotate their content at their own device to explain what they are sharing.

Finally, for those of you that are saying, that’s all well and good, but you still have to use that IR pen and you can’t use your fingers like on a multi-touch display, Epson recently announced their new version that will allow users to interact and annotate with the pen, fingers, or both.  It’s up to you.

So, as is always the case in life and business, you never know what the future holds.  However it seems that Epson is firmly in the camp that “what got you here today will be insufficient to keep you there tomorrow”.  They have taken industry trends and past successes and coupled them with innovation, and investments in nontraditional products like software, to give them what I would say is a promising base from which to continue to flourish in the future.

What do you do with 39% market share?  Don’t coast.  Shake things up!