Projection Differentiation Decade

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NEC, Christie, Sanyo and Digital Projectiswiss-army-projectoron all took bold steps to become more than just also-ran “projector manufacturers” in 2009.

NEC, in fact, created a totally new market segment for the ProAV Integrator with VUKUNET by allowing us to tap into the huge revenue streams created by digital signage.  Instead of simply sitting back trying to figure out how to make their next-generation LCDs cheaper, they truly added value that every ProAV integrator can take advantage of – even if you’re not an NEC reseller!

Christie Digital re-invented the projection cube industry with what their MicroTiles line of 20-inch diagonal, 10-inch deep stackable tiles that, literally, figure out the shape you’re making with the tiles (through IR sensors) and re-images the video you are showing to fit the shape and size!  Instead of simply sitting back and trying to find a way to make control rooms, rental/staging Apps and signage cheaper, they made it more creative and opened up all new opportunities for ProAV integrators.  In this case, you have to be a Christie reseller – so it’s worth the time to get set up!

Sanyo launched 4LCD in 2008 and shipped it in 2009.  4LCD adds a color control device that manages the amount of yellow light in to create brighter images (with the same lamp technology) and, theoretically, better colorimetry than 3LCD. Whether or not it becomes an LCD-staple isn’t the point – they are innovating to be creative rather than just buying the same old raw-component LCD that all the other LCD manufacturers buy from Sony or Epson.

And, Digital Projection, at CEDIA 2009 partnered with Mechdyne – a leader in 3D visualization – to offer a 3D Home Cinema “package” that’s compatible with the 3D in-home standards coming in 2010.  Again, the point isn’t if this is the best 3D projection technology or not, it’s that they were attempting to differentiate themselves from the also-rans like Barco that are just focused on making brighter and brighter projectors.

In fact, differentiation is the key point here.  These four projector manufacturers stood out in 2009 by doing more than what they’ve done over the past ten years – just make displays.

And that, you will see, will be a theme for this new decade – assuming you want to survive.

Currently, I count 44 display manufacturers in the ProAV market.  Include the HomeAV market in there and you’d have to add another 18 manufacturers to the mix.  Anyone can make a projector – or, better yet, OEM one from some Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean or Japanese manufacturer out there.  But, not anyone can re-energize the market like Christie will do with MicroTiles in 2010.

Think about the cell phone market for a minute.  How boring was that?  In fact, most of us kept a phone for 2-3 years, not because we were happy with it or it was performing the service exactly as we wanted it to – heck, most of us didn’t switch because of the hassle it created to port all our contact’s phone numbers from the old phone to a new one.  Stupid reason, but it’s true.

Then came the iPhone – and all the other interactive, touch-sensitive, PDA-based phones that have followed.  They’ve reinvented the entire channel.

OK, sure, it’s interesting to watch LCD flat panel displays getting thinner and thinner – but is that innovation that re-energizes our market?  I think not.  Embed it with a media player and now you’ve got something…

Actually, truth be told, it’s up to you to do this.  Don’t get me wrong, we will see differentiation by the manufacturers that understand the need to innovate and actually have some control over that – and aren’t just OEM’ers.  But, it’s up to you to creatively offer innovative solutions into the next decade.  We’ve done it before, we can do it again! Here are some examples:

The Control Room:  An innovation born from the minds-eye of an integration firm in Southern California in the late 1980s.  A manufacturer didn’t invent this.

Digital Signage:  Although NEC Display first coined the term in the mid-1990s, the concept was born via a moderately successful, up until that moment in time, AV integration firm based in Florida.

Telepresence:  Way before that term was ever used, an up-start AV integration firm from Chicago was taking existing VTC gear and makingtelepresence rooms that connected two sites together in life-sized proportions.

I could go on and on, but you should get the picture by now – integrators are actually the ones who served as the catalysts to innovation in these new markets and channels.

Who’s next?

Reprinted with permission from Sound & Communications. Founded in 1955, Sound & Communications is the premiere magazine for AV systems integrators, contractors and consultants. To subscribe or read sample articles, go to