What Will You Do?

I see a significant shift in market dynamics coming, quickly. Product development, distribution changes and even new manufacturers are all of a sudden having an impact on all sorts of market conditions — all driving change. Historically, we, as a market, have done well dealing with any ONE of these changes — but all three at the same time make for an IM-perfect storm.
What the heck am I talking about?
Well, as my columns are only limited to less than 1000 words, it’s impossible to write about all of the things I am seeing in one article, so I will focus on a few biggies that, I hope, will make my point CLEAR — if they do not “ring a bell” with you, my apologies (get your resume ready).

1. The iPod: This product is fricking amazing to me. I am not sure there’s ever been a $250 product that’s generated $500 and even $5000 accessories from our market. But, what concerns me (for our market) is that it, along with Apple’s iTunes, has become the defacto-standard music storage device. Companies like Niles, Sonance, Russound, Crestron, AMX and others who you would expect to dominate the music storage and playback market in high-end home and professional applications are, in stead, building and marketing a host of accessories to connect your $250 iPod to their $10,000 whole-house audio system. And, for those of you who are thinking that adding an iPod as a source is the same thing as adding a CD player or a DVD player to a system as a source — you’re DEAD WRONG. The iPod is NOT simply a source. It’s a driver! Don’t understand me — get a fricking clue (and start to better understand it by checking out the new NIKE + iPod Sport Kit. If you still don’t get it — seriously, get your resume ready!

2. H.323 (specifically XMeeting): While Polycom, Tandberg and the like are TRYING to find out how to leverage the H.323 standard and not only make it work well but also make it work FOR THEM profitably, a little-known company called XMeeting is dominating. This thing is awesome and turns a MacBook (or any Apple computer with a built-in cameras — all of them now) into a fully functional VTC system that’s, well, the cheapest and most powerful videoconferencing system on the market. Is it perfect? No, but it’s free – once you buy a MacBook laptop ($1099) or iMac computer ($1299). Seriously, unless you’re working for Polycom or Tandberg, once you see this you will agree that statement is 100% accurate. And, if you do work for Tandberg or Polycom — get your resume ready (unless you know something I don’t know). Oh, by the way, the XMeeting system allows you to connect to ANY other VTC system on the market — seamlessly — not just other MACs or XMeeting client users.

3. Selling Direct: Started by Dell and perfected by Apple, the consumer market’s been buying computers direct from the manufacturers for years. But, now Sony’s testing it out, too. Could everyone be far behind? Oh, and even if they don’t sell direct, isn’t announcing a street-price in a press release during product introduction with a margin of less than 10-percent basically the same thing? Sure, it’s doubtful that Extron, Crestron or any of the glue manufacturers could pull this off — nor would they even try, but the fact is that ProAV products are becoming a commodity. And, still, too many AV dealerships still don’t have a profitable service model. Does yours? If not, keep that resume ready!

4. Asia: The impact of Asia can’t be over-stated. It’s not the drop-the-pants pricing model that concerns me here though. It’s the fact that there are still dozens of LEADING brands over there that have yet to saturate the AV market — and they will. But, what I eventually see here is simply a USB-port as your system input port for everything from audio to video to computer resolution data connectivity. Do you think we will really need too much more than that? Do you really think that Apple’s iPod will only be for audio? Why couldn’t it become simply a portable media center/driver that allows you to retrieve and send every type of content to any display — anywhere?

Think about it…

Still don’t get it?