A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or Why Home AV Suppliers Won’t Beat You


Crew CallInfinity. That’s what the time period between Infocomm and CEDIA brings to mind. As in, an enormous number of pundits writing an endless number of columns. Also, as in the old  “infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters” proposition. You can look it up on Wikipedia, or you can take my word for it: given an infinite number of monkeys pounding away, one of them is mathematically certain to accidentally type the complete works of William Shakespeare.

However, it seems none of our AV gurus are destined to accidentally produce anything remotely close to Hamlet (the one about an AV guy from Denmark).  After all – look at the nonsense they spew at this time of year. It’s totally formulaic – and wrong.

Let me remind you of some of the gems that issue from this typing pool each year as the prognosticators type away with their feet:

“[Insert name of big corporation here] plans to enter the commercial AV business, and will put all existing dealers out of business because of their superior volume and business acumen.”

“Microsoft, with the next release of Windows, is going to dominate the conferencing market by creating their own unbeatable, reliable standard based on Outlook.”

“Best Buy/Fry’s/Circuit City/etc. are entering the commercial and boardroom market and will displace the current distribution channels.”

Remember, these are the same people who predicted that DLP would completely replace LCD by 2003, and that Microsoft “Bob” would succeed. So it’s no wonder that they’re scurrying to put out the other insane pre-CEDIA prediction that they seem to indulge in every year. Here’s that whopper:

“Because of the popularity and ease-of-use of home systems, home theater installers are going to be led into the boardroom market by their clients and take it over.”


Enough monkeying around.  There are a lot of exciting developments in the home theater world. And, indeed, home theater technology often does lead, or at least inspire, technical development in professional AV. But long ago, a child’s toy inspired the development of the helicopter, and we still don’t ride in aircraft labeled “Mattel.”

Home theater technologies, and people with home theater orientations, lack some of the essential qualities for professional systems:

Interoperability. Let’s face it. There’s a new, mutually exclusive “standard” introduced in the home theater industry every seven minutes. While I’m perfectly willing to turn over my home theater system frequently to take advantage of the latest whiz-bang gadget, I’d be a lot less willing to do so with my boardroom, where interoperability with my other employees, clients, and peers is the real key.

Stability (see above). Try explaining to your CTO why your boardroom runs on pre-release software, the way home theaters often do.

Scalability. Technologies that work great in home theaters don’t often scale well to professional levels. As an example, I had a client who was looking at a digital signage system for their new HQ. Spotted the Apple TV, loved the size, cost, and network connectivity – and decided to go it alone because his home unit was so easy to set up. This is not the place to tell a horror story, but suffice it to say that all his bosses now have Apple TVs at home (because they didn’t work in the boardroom).

I’m not saying there isn’t some crossover between professional and home systems or installers. But, like the key differences between Installation Techs and Rental Techs, they are there. And the kid in the Pearl Jam T-shirt with the can of Red Bull and the latest issue of “Wired” is no threat.


joelrollins_smrAVe Rental [and Staging] contributor Joel R. Rollins, CTS-R, is General Manager of Everett Hall Associates, Inc. and is well known throughout the professional AV industry for his contributions to industry training and his extensive background in AV rental, staging and installation. Joel can be reached at Joel can be reached at joelrollins@mac.com