Lessons are taught as well as learned every day, and this one I consider a major one. I first want to send accolades to my fellow rAVe Publications blogger Mark Coxon for coming to the forefront and speaking his mind concerning the situation relating to Microsoft at the InfoComm show; I think he put in print what many of us may have been thinking privately. As Mark said and with which I concur, I got a lot out of the show and was glad to have attended. I do know that the powers that be couldn’t have known what would take place and we were all made aware of these developments just before the show (although I still expected some company representation at the booth).
That being said, I was considering putting out a retraction on social media to my blog from February, “Microsoft and the New AV World Order” (which I’ve chosen not to link back to here). I thought long and hard about this though and decided that a follow-up blog was probably the best answer to what occurred at the show. This blog would be geared more toward the current state of the industry with the players that already exist, as well as those new to the game who invested to show a presence at InfoComm. Three industry stalwarts were mentioned in the blog as well (Cisco, Crestron and SMART Technologies), which also led to my decision not to retract.The smaller companies (new or already existing in the game) do not have the enormous funds that industry giants do, yet they decided that coming to Vegas to be in front of the entire AV community and its end users was well worth it. My hat’s off to them for undertaking this grand effort.
Companies that have strived for perfection in this industry for so many years appeared in full force at the show as they do every year. Crestron, NEC, Barco, Harman, AMX and other long-time industry standard bearers continue to take on major booth space befitting their status in the AV/IT community (sorry I couldn’t mention all but you of course know who you are). The newer industry players who exist in a focused community of innovation and achievement were all there with their new and enhanced technology offerings. I watched representatives from these companies (including their C-Level executives) stop over at each other’s booths to see their compatriots’ technology offerings and likely talk shop as well (maybe even just shooting the breeze). Compatriots you say? I give them this classification as many of them come from the same companies with long-time existence in the video conferencing industry, and know each other very well. Of course there are many in other competing entities and communities who know one another very well in an industry that’s referred to as a smaller world than many actually perceive.
Did many of us get overexcited about Microsoft agreeing to come to InfoComm 2014 in what we all believed to be as a major show presence (with reportedly the largest booth space on record)? Knowing what we do now the answer is of course yes, but in retrospect I have to say that we couldn’t know any better about what the end result would be. Yet in the process maybe some of us may have inadvertently “brushed off” current industry vendors, distributors and rep companies who work hard throughout the year to satisfy the needs of the integrators and end users. As a former integration company account manager, I always appreciated the efforts they all put in to help enhance my sales growth and even industry knowledge-base.
Yes, Microsoft was a Platinum sponsor for the show and that certainly carries great importance, however let’s not ignore the fact that Crestron, Panasonic and Samsung carried Platinum sponsorships as well and deserve that same recognition. The Gold’s: Aurora, Blackmagicdesign, Christie, Epson, NEC and Ricoh also deserve accolades for their sponsorship participation. The many industry publications represented at the show deserve mention for their work in terms of wall to wall coverage informing the AV industry masses both at the show and back home. Haivision, in a project which I had a small hand in, streamed the show live over the internet which I was alerted to by my associate in India Yash Chavan while I was at the show on the second day (another blog to come on that). The many breakout sessions and educational activities at the show were of tremendous value for all who attended. Josh Srago’s moderated panel discussion on Net Neutrality (take the time when you can to watch this video) was also a great add-in touching on a controversial issue concerning the FCC’s planned new rules to allow Internet service providers to charge content companies for preferential treatment over the “last mile” to users in a blow for advocates of “Net neutrality,” the principle that consumers should have equal access to content available on the Internet.
Organizations such as WAVE speak to major achievement and identity for women in the industry. Awards were presented to two solid citizens of the WAVE community, Cory Schaeffer, co-founder and vice president of business development worldwide of Listen Technologies and Jan Sandri, president of FSR Inc. — I was present at the dinner to witness this presentation. I also watched the women who work for rAVe Pubs, who could hardly sit still with the flurry of activity going on around them. An article was recently published by Leonard Suskin concerning “booth babes” and why they are no longer just come-hither eye candy booth marketing presence, they are actually becoming an effrontery in terms of their scantily clad dress as well as stealing well deserved recognition from the women at the show who work hard in this industry to get ahead and be recognized for their achievements. In followup to Leonard’s blog today, Penny Sitler of Draper Inc., also a winner of the Women in AV award (and yet another solid citizen in the industry), wrote a terrific blog article titled InfoComm: Reflections on Booth Staff, detailing how Draper requires that their booth be staffed only with their own product experts. In the article she thanked the AV Pros who shared and commented on her post, a nice touch. Maybe with enough groundswell, this issue will receive the support of the total industry and the message — staff your booth only with company professionals, not hired help dressed in outfits you’d see in those model magazines who add nothing but a wink and a badge scan — will finally sink in. And hey, they’re also great at handing out swag (eye roll…). Oh and add to this the fact that those companies who choose the eye candy approach likely are missing out on attracting the female floor-walking population, which grows in presence every year. How about Glass Explorers if you really need an add-in booth presence? Google — Glass Explorers? Think about it.
The lesson learned here as far as I’m concerned is to temper the excitement, no matter how grandiose the announcement and consider the hard work, innovation and achievements that already exist in the industry. Attention needs to be paid to those who put in those long hours and are the real credits to the industry, not the perceived “new blood” injection and distractions that take our attention away from what really matters. Yes, a full Microsoft showing would have been a great addition to InfoComm 2014, however whether they decided to fill the booth with technology and presence or provide space for work, device charging and couches for relaxation (and to sit and watch the World Cup), they were in short another technology provider, not the entire show themselves. If other IT industry giants do appear next year, let’s consider them what they really are — another company investing in booth space to show their latest innovations as the companies that have existed in the AV space have been doing for years. If it lends to the convergence of AV and IT, all the power to the cause. I guess instead of a retraction, we can consider this my corrected approach to the show as well as the recognition that should have been reserved for those that create and recreate the AV world order year after year.
Thank you all for reading, and I hope to see you in sunny Orlando at InfoComm 2015.