David J. Danto
AV, Collaboration, IoT, Technology, UC and Video Industry Consultant and Analyst
Director of Emerging Technology
Interactive Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance
A View From The Road Volume 12, Number 5
Year End Wrap 2018
In This Edition:
· LDI – I Hardly Recognize You
· The Collaboration Industry As 2018 Closes
· Consumerization In Full Force
· CES On The Horizon
Greetings from Las Vegas, where I’ve just attended LDI 2018 – the thirtieth anniversary of this annual staging and lighting exhibition. The show was smaller and less involved than in years past, with an inordinate number of truss suppliers and display companies. I’d guess that 70 percent of the firms (and attendees) here have never heard of a Leko or a Fresnel - testimony to how far the industry has changed - or matured – take your pick. There were many more display manufacturers here than in years past – with live video being a huge part of the staging experience regardless of venue or event.
I have little new to report from this show this year (at least little of any use - there were the Smoke Bubbles I tweeted about, but I’ve yet to think of a valid use case for them.) I did get to catch up with Rob Sheely and Tom Mingo (ex Vaddio folks) who are now running the reassembled Williams AV. They’ve created a series of products to make collaboration in conference rooms easier, including some new technologies that let you initiate room audio conferences from your mobile phone into a room’s integrated system. Click here to watch them tell you about it from the expo floor.
This event is always the last one of the year on my industry calendar, and it gives me the opportunity to look back at what’s happened and reflect a bit. As far as the collaboration space is concerned, I sense the industry is in an interesting transition period again. The silence from the major players in the space is deafening. There are no compelling messages from any of the large collaboration players. Sure, many are boasting about their team chat products and/or offerings, but I’m sensing that that is going to go down as one of the bigger hype-cycles in our industry. Team chat is fabulous – for teams – not for organization wide use in organizations of any size. When you try to scale it it becomes like trying to carry too many boxes – collapsing from its own weight and cultural instability. I’ve used just about all of the platforms – and gotten a lot out of them – but when you try to add too many people to the platforms, and someone in the group or organization doesn’t participate as they should, the resulting emails, calls, etc. increase your workload instead of reducing it.
When you look at the the traditional collaboration space, Cisco recently had a management transition and has had many of their high-level team depart, Plantronics-Polycom is still gearing up for their re-launch, Microsoft is focused completely on Teams (see above), and many of the other players are also retrenching or are too small to take notice of. In fact, other than Zoom, no one is really moving the collaboration market with effective messaging (with Zoom’s seen at airports, on radio, on billboards, etc.) Not taking anything away from Zoom and their terrific platform, but it’s odd that almost no firms in the industry have figured out how to effectively compete against them with alternate compelling messaging. I assume someone will eventually figure out how to compete with messaging again.
We are continuing to see new players and new combinations in the collaboration space. Crestron for one has just released a compelling suite of systems with an Azure based management platform. Look for people to finally notice them in a new light. Also, the historically Ex-Tandberg firms Pexip and Videxio have announced they are going to combine forces into one company. That’s interesting from a number of angles, including how their very different software licensing business model and their managed services model might combine / augment / detract from each other’s position. (It will also be interesting because of Pexip’s position as the only approved interoperability system for Google Hangouts Meet and the only on-prem certified interoperability system for Microsoft Teams video, as well as because Videxio is just about the only firm I have seen figure out how to compete with Zoom’s messaging.)
Those of you who’ve read my past blogs understand my take on consumerization – the reality that enterprise users are now taking a back-seat to the needs of the consumer market. There were a few interesting developments in that space as well this year. Clearly AI in some form or another will take a much greater role in controlling our rooms and systems. Just recently Amazon announced that its Echo device (Alexa) will be able to reserve conference rooms for you. This is an early approach to the voice-first control space, but one where we’ll definitely see more activity in the near future. In addition, Facebook recently announced they are releasing a home videoconferencing / smart speaker system called “portal” based on their Messenger platform. (While the technology seems impressive, critics have assailed their credibility in the space.) Please don’t see these activities as one-off intrusions. Savvy collaboration industry people have been aware of FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) or GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple) for years now. These powerhouse firms will surely change the space – or at least people’s perceptions of how easy and reliable collaboration should be. This is the new normal. You’re not competing against immersive TelePresence anymore.
Ideas around of Consumerization should lead you to thinking about the CES (formerly called a dozen things including the Consumer Electronics Show.) Hotels and planes are already filling-up (at the typical astronomical rates for the week which I’ve blogged about before) and appointments are being made. Are you attending? If not, allow me to belittle you for a moment. The collaboration space, the AV industry, and all communications and technology are being driven by trends that are first revealed at this event. If you’re not going you’re resolving not to keep learning about the leading edge (and might as well retire.) Seriously, do consider going. The insights I learn there set the tone for the following year. Registration for qualified attendees is available here.
That’s it for this edition of A View From The Road. The next one will be after the aforementioned CES 2019. May you have a happy and healthy holiday season and a joyous new year with family and friends.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely their own, personal opinions.
David has had over three decades of experience delivering successful business outcomes in media and collaboration technology for various firms in the corporate, broadcasting and academic worlds - including AT&T, Bloomberg LP, FNN, Morgan Stanley, NYU, Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan Chase. He is now a consultant for the collaboration, multimedia, video and AV industries. He is also honored to serve as IMCCA’s Director of Emerging Technology and as the editor of Sound and Communication’s IT/AV Report. David can be reached at DDanto@imcca.org and his full bio and other blogs and articles can be seen at Danto.info. Please reach-out to David if you would like to discuss how he can help your organization solve problems, develop a future-proof collaboration strategy for internal use, or if you would like his help developing solid, user-focused go-to-market strategies for your collaboration product or service.
All images and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.