in November 2005
The Next Big Thing…
Gary Kayye, CTS
It has changed each decade. What’s next?
What is the Next Big
• In the 1950s, it was slides.
• The 1960s, the portable film projector.
• The 1970s, the VCR and videotape.
• The 1980s, presentation gear and the beginning of
the projector era.
• The 1990s brought growth with the digital LCD and
Each of these decades saw huge
growth in the world of the AV integrator—or at least
the ones smart enough to recognize the next big thing.
But, what is it now? The projector
has quickly lost its luster in the AV market with the dealers
and distributors because they are a “dime a dozen,”
quoting the president of a major commercial AV dealer in
Southern California who sells more than $5 million worth
of them each year.
And, basically, he’s right.
There are minute differences between one projector brand
and another; mostly the leadership roles belong to service-oriented
or price-oriented manufacturers. But, either way, the margins
on projectors are, in fact, slimmer than they ever have
been. And, with Dell taking a leadership role in selling
them, margins are sure to get squeezed even more. Not to
mention what HP, InFocus and Epson are doing.
Yet, many dealers keep chasing
the perfect projector sale. The sale that’s huge,
the one that outfits the entire University of Florida with
projectors in every room. That Coca-Cola deal that brings
projection technology to every meeting room, even two-person
rooms. And, that deal that outfits every Pfizer rep with
traveling, mini-projectors. But, as we all know, many of
these big deals are turning to the internet.
And, is the projector really the
I don’t think so. I think
it’s collaborative meetings. I realize that’s
not as easy to sell (or even say) as a projector and a screen.
But, remember back when AMX and Crestron were blazing a
trail into the commercial AV market with remote-control
systems that looked a lot like a garage-door opener? Remember
when they came out with the first keypad or the first touchpanel?
I think that selling collaborative
meeting technology is a lot like selling a control system.
Everyone knows that the projector’s remote can control
all functions required of the projector, and some can even
advance slides in a PowerPoint presentation. Every room
already comes equipped with a light switch. We can add an
Up/Down switch for a screen and mount that on the wall.
And, we can have the audio gear, VCRs and DVD players on
the table in the room and simply use the front-panel controls
of each of them to run our presentation. We don’t
need a control system, right?
Well, we all know what the outcome
of that solution was/is. AMX, Crestron, Extron and the other
control system manufacturers sell a half-billion dollars
in AV gear a year.
And, I see collaborative meeting
technology that way, too. Sure, you can simply put a talking-head
VTC system in a room, or you can connect the rooms via true
electronic collaboration. all SMART, PolyVision, Polycom,
Tandberg all have collaborative systems. Heck, even WebEx
has a service to do “document collaboration.”
But, the next generation of this
stuff is the Next Big Thing.
We’re at the dawn of a new
era. True collaborative meeting technology is about to really
take shape and enter the commercial AV world. A company
such as PolyVision and its Thunder product is one example.
I am sure SMART’s right behind with its own collaborative
meeting room system. And, Polycom can’t be far behind.
So, watch this market category carefully and arm yourself
with the knowledge it takes, because it’s truly a
convergence product requiring knowledge in AV, IT and the
I realize that collaborative meeting
technology isn’t as tangible as selling a projector
because it requires connecting multiple sites together,
interfacing lots of AV gear into a single solution and communicating
with the IT guys to convince them that sticking this AV
gear on their network is “OK” to do. But, I
love the fact that, with Thunder, for example, you also
have to install at least a half-dozen projectors in the
Anyone out there know of a good
Kayye, a member of Sound & Communications’ Technical
Council, is principal of Kayye Consulting. He was the ICIA’s
2003 Educator of the Year. Send comments to him at email@example.com.