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AV Pros Name Their Favorite Product Makers

PRO AV invited AV integrators, installers, consultants, and end-users to tell us about the products they use and/or specify most often in 25 product categories. Here's what they said.

Launch Slideshow

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2010 Brand Leaders Data

Source: ProAV 2010 Brand Leaders survey. Percentages do not add up to 100 because respondents could pick up to two brands.

2010 Brand Leaders Data

Source: ProAV 2010 Brand Leaders survey. Percentages do not add up to 100 because respondents could pick up to two brands.

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With the recession in the pro AV industry’s rearview window, it may be months or even years before we know everything that the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression hath wrought. Like a flight to safety. Sure, we know about layoffs and cutbacks and large-scale projects put on hold by clients struggling with their own layoffs and cutbacks. But what of the projects that forged ahead during the recession? What did they look like?

There’s an old line from the information technology profession: “No one ever got fired for buying IBM.” The line has morphed over the years to reflect the power of any number of brands or commodities, such as Cisco Systems or gold. “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams was once quoted as saying, when an Iowa man was fired for posting a “Dilbert” comic at the office, “Stick with ‘Garfield.’ No one ever got fired for loving lasagna.”

But whatever the punch line, the sentiment holds true, particularly when business is hard and competition is tough: When in doubt, make a safe choice.

That was the feeling we got after receiving the results of Pro AV’s 2010 Brand Leaders survey. In April, we invited AV integrators, installers, consultants, and end-users to tell us about the products they use and/or specify most often in a variety of different categories. About 270 took the survey, answering the questions that applied most to their work (not everyone has an opinion in every category). In almost every product category, last year’s Brand Leader was the leader again this year. The difference? The share of respondents who cited many of the 2010 Brand Leaders as among their most preferred brands actually increased—in some cases significantly. For example, last year 54.8 percent of survey-takers named Crestron as one of their top touchpanel brands. This year that figure was 69.8 percent.

Why? Going back to the IBM analogy, it would make sense that in a turbulent market, AV professionals would gravitate toward respected, long-established, well-known products in order to play it safe. That’s not to say AV pros in this year’s survey aren’t specifying a litany of other great product brands; the numbers simply indicate maybe they did so less frequently than in the recent past.

Parsing the Numbers

Aside from consolidation at the top of many product categories, there are other trends worth spotting. For instance, not every 2010 top brand is the same as last year. This year NEC emerged as the Top Conference/Classroom Projector Brand in what is proving to be a product category crowded with favorites. Meanwhile, Furman Sound took over the top spot in the Power Management Brand category.

But the category we will be most interested in following over the coming years is fiber-optics. This year, Extron Electronics repeated as the Top Fiber-Optic Transport Brand, but the share of AV pros choosing other brands made significant gains, an indication that more people are comfortable using fiber optics to move AV signals around a project and that they’re working with a variety of brands to do so. Crestron, Kramer, Magenta Research, Communications Specialties, AMX, and MultiDyne all have fiber-based products that Pro AV readers are starting to spec more of.

And no survey stands pat. This year we asked AV pros about their Top Streaming Media Brands and found that many are getting their streaming technology from the same company they get their conferencing solutions from—Polycom. But they’re also open to more IT-oriented solutions such as VBrick, Sonic Foundry, and Cisco. In addition, to reflect an ongoing debate among AV pros over whether to use pro or consumer displays in their installations, we broke out displays into Top Professional Brand (Panasonic) and Top Consumer Brand (Samsung).

Finally, this year we’re officially reporting the Top Digital Signage Solution Brands along with all the other product categories. The number of AV pros voting in the category was up 21 percent from last year, with Scala being the most cited brand. But just as many people chose “Other.” Here’s a sampling of what those “Others” were: Cisco DMS, PowerPoint, Samsung MagicInfo, Symon Communications, and various flavors of “custom” and “home-grown” solutions, plus super-niche brands we’re not ashamed to say we’d never heard of before. The point being, more Pro AV readers have an opinion about digital signage brands, but no brand appears to dominate mindshare.

But now, without further ado, we present Pro AV’s 2010 Brand Leaders....

 


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