Is My Favorite ISE Product Good or Bad for ProAV?

You’ll read a lot about ISE over the next few months. It was the biggest ProAV and HomeAV show ever. Over 73,400 people attended in Amsterdam and it is NO LONGER A EUROPEAN SHOW. ISE is truly an international show.

And, you’ll read about all the 4K stuff, all the new software codecs, all the new wireless stuff, all the new AV-over-IP stuff and how the industry is heading towards a collision with IT — even though IT doesn’t even give a shit about AV.

But, my favorite product from ISE wasn’t any of those — not even close. Mine was the emergence of what I am calling the Collaboration Board.

No, it’s not new. In fact, Prysm (then called Anacore) invented the category some six years ago with this debut and then InFocus about four years ago with the debut of the Mondopad. And, although InFocus has sold some, they are about to see explosive growth as that category is now been “validated” with the introduction of some big-named brands entering the category — GoogleCiscoNEC — just to name a few (and, of course, Microsoft entered it last year with the Surface HUB).

But, at ISE, it was the break-out product — with over 20 manufacturers entering that product category (some new brands and some old brands).

And, yes, InFocus will benefit, big-time from these companies. And, for those of you who think that NEC, Cisco and the like will eat InFocus’ lunch, did you know that Wainhouse Research is about to report that the Collaboration Board category is going to be a $1.5 Billion market next year? So, if I were InFocus, I’d be perfectly content with 5 or 10 percent of that market.

But, is the Collaboration Board market good for ProAV?

Let’s take a look:

1. It’s an all-in-one product: All the Collaboration Boards are all-in-one products with a display, sources, switching, routing, control, video and audio (even conferencing) integrated into one solution that you put in a meeting room. No projectors to add, no touch-screen overlays to add. No control system to add — thus, no programming — and no in-room AV system to add. It’s a hang-and-bang that’s, in most cases, on wheels. No integration required.

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2. No integration required: Most of the Collaboration Boards are wheel-in-and-use experiences. Sure, some can be hung on a wall, but all you do is connect it to their (the customer’s) network and, voila, it’s ready to use. No integrator required.

3. No integrator required: Since it’s all pre-assembled and pre-integrated by each manufacturer, there’s nothing left to integrate — the IT department can take it from here…

So, it’s TERRIBLE for ProAV!

Actually, wrong — this is actually a gift from the AV gods.

The Collaboration Board is the equivalent to the good-ole-days of AV when AV integration companies basically became an in-house department of their clients’, offering on-site rental departments. In fact, it was a strategy — a business and marketing strategy. Maybe most of you reading this are too young to know this, but there was a time when an AV integration firm started a rental company/division to “own” the client/customer. In other words, they actually placed in-house rental staff, inexpensively, into their largest clients to offer in-house services to the customer — thus, by default, any time said client/customer needed to buy AV company, they’d yell down the hall to their in-house rental department (remember, staffed by rental techs form AV installers) and ask for it. Then, it appeared. No price haggling and barely a needs analysis.

And, some rental companies started AV integration firms because of this — so it worked both ways.

This is the same. So, we’re going to sell $1.5 Billion worth of Collaboration Boards with a walk-up-and-use experience and we will be able to use this as a “foot-in-the-door” piece to sell everything else. It’s like selling the customer a hand-held remote and then they realize they need a giant TV to control with it.

So, no, the Collaboration Board market is nothing but good news for the ProAV community. Embrace it. Don’t over-engineer it by adding crap the customer doesn’t need on to it. Make the experience what it should be (and is designed to be) — simple, plug-and-play and consumer-like.

Then, use it as a way to get in the door and tell them what else we can do — how we can make every single room they have work this well. Easy.