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A New Season of Projector Innovations

Oct 12, 2006 8:00 AM, By John McKeon

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Another year and its trade shows are almost past, and no corporate AV user or corporate-oriented systems integrator could be blamed for losing track of the new product announcements, technology demos, and forecasts that came at them fast and furious throughout the year.

The projector business alone produced a remarkable proliferation of products and specs that will tend to put price ever closer to the top of the list of purchasing-driving factors and challenge the integrator to define a useful role for himself.

Projector manufacturers continued this year to push their specs outward in all directions—smaller, lighter, brighter. Consider Boxlight’s new BumbleBee projector, which was announced in early summer and recently began shipping. This “personal” projector can produce an image up to 100in. across in SVGA 800x600 resolution. It weighs in at just 1lb., which makes it a candidate for consumers’ home entertainment and recreational dollars, as well as a potential choice of the traveling presenter who wants flexibility to stage a show virtually anywhere.

Ever-smaller projectors seem like the wave of the future, in fact. Insight Media has projected that sales of low-cost projectors (priced at or below $300) are about to explode, going from 15,000 units and $4 million in volume this year to 5.6 million units and $1.37 billion in volume in 2010.

Of course, to achieve this growth manufacturers will have to reduce specs or remove features, but a growing component of both the consumer and business audiences won’t care.

At the other end of the spectrum, the large-venue, high-brightness players continue to roll out new models. Christie, for instance, has rolled out a family of 3-chip DLP high-definition projectors, with native 1080p resolution and 5000, 8000, or 12,000 ANSI lumens brightness.

Mitsubishi has launched a new 1080p projector priced at less than $5,000. It’s a 3LCD system using new, inorganic LCD panels.

And those are just a sampling. InfoComm marked the first salvo in this bombardment of new products, with dozens of new projectors making their debuts on the show floor. But InfoComm’s iQ Announcer kept up the pace through the summer, assembling 13 new projector announcements in August and 17 in September.

With projector debuts also prominent at shows like Cedia and Photokina, which are not mainly oriented to the pro AV channel, it’s clear AV integrators—and their clients—are swimming in more of a consumer-product pool these days.

“Projectors are becoming commodities, so integrators need to understand what that means for their business and how they can use this to potential advantage,” says Chris Chinnock of Insight Media. “One possible way is by providing advice on which of these commodity projectors to buy. The installer can provide advice based upon his experience in using these products. That must be worth something to a buyer.

“The installer should also use the low-margin projector sale as an entry to sell other products and services. How about installing and setting up the network? Selling wireless hubs? Providing a lamp replacement service?”

The big trends in projection these days are for projectors to get cheaper and more capable—and more networked. The trend to networking projectors for maintenance and content management creates additional opportunities for integrators and their clients.

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