The Apple iPad WILL Impact the ProAV Market!

Since THE DAY that Apple launched the iPad, I’ve received at least a handful of emails every day asking my opinion on the iPad and its potential impact on the control system segment of our market – most specifically, the touch panel segment of the control market.

Let’s get this out of the way:  I’m a HUGE Apple fan. I think that they have humiliated, embarrassed and just plan kicked-butt over Microsoft over the past half-dozen years. But, I am also a realist – although I CLEARLY see the iPad-future and where it will fit into both the consumer AV andProAV space, I am going to put this review of it in perspective.  Likewise, I have to say this: don’t worry about any other future tablet-like device having much of an effect in AV as the Windows-based products out there now and coming out this Spring are a pack of losers.

So, let’s think logically here.  It’s easy to throw out an “it’s a game changer” statement that just about every member of the press in our market has used to talk about unique technology over the past three years.  Or, I could make the claim that Crestron and AMX better get ready for a huge impact on their businesses.  But, to do either is doing a disservice to the integrators and systems designers who read rAVe as well as those specific manufacturers.


Why?

Well, first of all, although it may be a “game-changer” in many ways, it won’t happen as instantly as a truly game-changing product (think iPod) has.  In addition, although it would be EASY to develop an App that would, literally, replace just about every desktop touch panel use of AMX andCrestron panels, Apple’s still got to approve that specific App and, believe me when I tell you, replacing the ProAV market’s uses of $1000, $3000 and even $5000 touch panels isn’t on Apple’s radar screen right now.  They’re looking at the eBook, videogame and web browsing applications that will drive the sale of millions of iPads – not a few thousand.  Sure, it WILL come, but not immediately – maybe not even in 2010.

But, take a look at all the unique iterations of touch panels in our market and the many form factors they have taken.  We have plain old touch panels, but in many cases, we’re using touch panels with buttons surrounding them to act as Macro functions or commonly used guide buttons.  And, we clearly don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach to user-interfaces in our market – look at the plethora of touch screen sizes, colors and options out there now! So, simply adding a control App to the iPad will not create explosive growth of the iPad into the ProAV market on its own.  A lot of other things have to line up just right for this to happen – not to mention the amazingly slow adoption rate of new technologies in the ProAV market by you, the integrators of AV technology.  Oops, I mentioned it.

All that said, I do see a wave of change on the horizon of control.  We’ve already seen a dynamic shift in control integration thanks to simplified/packaged control options like Extron’s TouchLink and MediaLink lines and Crestron’s new DigitalMedia stuff.  So, don’s stand by and NOT look at the opportunity a product like the iPad will present.  There will be Apps that WILL offer opportunities for control of AV systems that make sense.  I suspect the big-three control companies out there (AMX, Crestron and Extron) may even make them too! Don’t shun this opportunity to further simplify our already over-complicated market…