More Of What You Don't Need
It seems that nearly every day, there are ?new? products that look and sound just like the old ones. But how many do we really need?
“Oh no — not another one of these!,” my brother exclaimed, while opening his Christmas gift several years ago. My family immediately became hysterical, and a new tradition was born. Every Christmas thereafter someone would re-wrap that gift, and give it to someone else. I don't know where that hot shaving lather dispenser is now, but I think it ended up with me.
I'm reminded of that as I read many of the new product press releases I receive. It seems that nearly every day, there are “new” products that look and sound just like the old ones. But how many do we really need? Sure, there are improvements, variations, and different feature sets. But unless you really look closely, most of what we see touted as new technology isn't new. There's more sizzle than steak.
I understand that AV manufacturers need to continuously feed the pipeline. But sometimes it seems driven more by the need to impress investors than to fulfill unmet market needs. It gives the illusion of R&D and innovation, when all it really produces is catalog inflation and churn of old products replaced by new ones — with ever shorter life cycles. If pro AV was driven by fashion and the itch to always have “the latest,” this might be warranted. But these market drivers sound much more like the consumer products marketplace, and continue to feed my belief that there's a disconnect between pro AV manufacturing and systems integration.
Some equipment makers have already begun to look beyond the pro AV integrator to the end-user, who incidentally made up more than half of the non-exhibitor attendees at InfoComm last year. And what was one of the biggest product buzzes at the show? Pocket projectors — a distinctly non-professional product that anyone can use, doesn't require installation, and will probably be available at Staples in a few years.
We need to work harder to communicate to manufacturers exactly what we need in order to do our jobs more effectively and meet the needs of our end-users. Manufacturers need to work harder to listen to systems integrators, and not let the sheer size of the consumer market distract them and hide the importance of “the pro channel.” Manufacturer-sponsored, factory training programs provide the best forum for this kind of dialogue, which is key to developing products that best serve end-users' needs. Otherwise, I'm afraid we'll be seeing a lot more hot shaving lather dispensers under our Christmas trees, and frankly, one is enough for me.