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The Nature of Competition

What happens when a cottage industry grows too big for the cottage?

Roaming the aisles of CEDIA Expo last month, I recalled what InfoComm executive director Randy Lemke said earlier this year. Basically, that outside the U.S., the AV integration market isn't necessarily broken down by residential and commercial the way it is here. But things change. At the show, I heard from more than one residential installer who was growing his commercial business, taking on a couple extra corporate jobs a year in order to broaden his base and weather downturns in the housing market. Should these CEDIA installers succeed, those are jobs they've claimed from a company that might specialize in commercial AV.

Rewind to InfoComm 2008. At a Sony press conference highlighting its success in large venues, namely stadiums and arenas, I was pulled aside by a Sony official who explained that the company intended to get more into AV integration. Maybe not in houses of worship or corporate boardrooms, but in entertainment, museums, and other verticals. And see this month's cover story about the NASDAQ videowall. McCann Systems certainly did impressive work on the installation, but it was made abundantly clear to Pro AV that Christie Digital was heavily involved in design and integration.

This is all good for clients more and varied experts to throw at AV projects. But it can be a confusing situation for companies that have long defined the pro AV industry consultants, designers, installers and now see others step onto their playing field. (Though who can blame them for expanding? By all accounts, professional AV so far remains strong in a struggling economy.)

In an e-mail thread among the Pro AV advisory board, one of the topics we were encouraged to explore was the evolving nature of competition in AV. As one advisor put it, "Our cottage industry is popping up on the radar of larger companies. Did anyone know Lockheed Martin has a boatload of certified, highly trained AV personnel? Who are we going to be competing with in the future? More manufacturers are creating their own integration divisions. Do you want to be buying from someone who just took the biggest AV job in your town from you?"

Important questions we'll be tackling soon. There will always be demand for trained, skilled AV pros. Who's going to claim that mantle?

Brad Grimes, Editor

e-mail: bgrimes@hanleywood.com



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