Updated: Barco ‘Freezes’ Overture Control System Development

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Updated Nov. 16, 2020: I reached out to both Kevin Morrison, CEO and Frank Pellkofer, president, Utelogy Corporation for their thoughts and, interestingly enough, they praised Barco and the Overture system with this quote: “Barco is a fantastic company that make world class products. These are extraordinary times and companies across all industries including AV have had to make tough decisions and prioritise. Our success as a small and rapidly growing company is to focus and listen to our customers. This is all we do. We hope that when the time is right Barco can re-enter this market and continue to be a respected competitor. We wish them well.”

If you haven’t visited Barco’s Overture microsite, hurry as it’s likely about to disappear. I received a “tip” that Barco may be discontinuing Overture, one of only a few software-based AV control systems, last week and it turned out to be mostly true. This morning, I had a call with Barco’s senior VP of its enterprise division, George Stromeyer, who confirmed that Barco would no longer be spending any more R&D money of development of Overture but, the company is “retaining the rights and intellectual property” — as Barco employees believe in the concepts — but Barco thinks that the product may have debuted, in Stromeyer’s words, “too early for market adoption of a purely software-based control platform.”

I agree. Overture is differentiated from the big-four control system companies, Crestron, Extron, Kramer and AMX, in that it’s totally software-based and subscription-oriented and, in the AV market, selling software has proven to be difficult. In fact, only one company in AV has been able to pull it off, successfully: Utelogy.

Certainly, every company during this pandemic has had to take a look at all expenditures and figure out where to put its money, and Barco’s Stromeyer explained that the company has decided to focus development efforts, internally, on the new Barco XMS cloud-management platform for ClickShare and WallConnect for video walls rather than on Overture. But, not because they didn’t believe in Overture as a control platform but, when ranking product adoption and the financial investment ROI, those two products came out ahead of Overture as Overture was still an “emerging” technology product within the AV market. Barco even looked at both partnering with other software-based platform companies as well as selling Overture during the past seven months and, ultimately, decided to keep the product, shelve it and potentially relaunch it “when the market is ready,” Stromeyer commented.

Once again, selling software is difficult in AV. It’s an intangible and when you can’t hold it, play with it, touch it or interact with it, selling it becomes harder. And, let’s be honest here and recognize that what companies like Crestron and Extron really are selling — with their own control platforms — is, in fact, software and intellectual property but packaged into a set of hardware endpoints and that makes it easier to sell. The truth is, only two of the big four (Crestron and Kramer) have even tried to do what Utelogy has done (sell an exclusively software-based platform).

Barco is a hardware company. It makes projectors, monitors, ClickShare, video walls, show controllers, etc. Sure, its own XMS is cloud monitoring, management and analytics. But it’s bundled with ClickShare — so it’s easier to pitch and buy.

Barco says the company will continue to support the entire installed-base of Overture and see the product as a strategic direction of the industry. I agree with that concept. In fact, the best thing for them would be for companies like Extron and Crestron to introduce their own truly, exclusively software-based commercial AV control platforms and not only would Barco’s Overture benefit from that but so would Utelogy, to be frank.

Like most companies in 2020, Barco’s had to take a hard look at what to spend money on and what provides the best ROI. And, apparently, a product and technology that’s more of a concept-sale versus one that’s simply a product-sale lost the battle to stay alive. But, it may, in the long run, win the war.