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The More Things Change

For my own sanity, I had to check my notes from the InfoComm 2004 Manufacturers Forum, which I moderated. The panel at this year's edition included some familiar faces, and sure enough, two of the panelists were on my panel three years ago.

For my own sanity, I had to check my notes from the InfoComm 2004 Manufacturers Forum, which I moderated. The panel at this year's edition included some familiar faces, and sure enough, two of the panelists were on my panel three years ago.

Some of the topics I pitched to our panelists in 2004 included distribution strategies, industry consolidation, and the convergence of AV and IT. Yet there we were in Anaheim last month, discussing these same topics.

Haven't we been here before? Or maybe, we never left. The issues haven't changed nor been resolved. Manufacturers still struggle with the paradox of requiring a distribution channel that can provide significant levels of customer support yet, for the most part, being unequipped to do this.

The supply side continues to consolidate, but it's not clear if anyone is actually benefiting from it. And AV/IT—the issue that won't go away—keeps offering fuel for a fire that seems bound to burn AV professionals who refuse to 'IT-ify."

As has become the tradition at these forums, questions from the audience generated the most meaningful discussions. Two of the most insightful questions came from IT technologists. One technology manager asked members of the panel if they were offering incentives for AV dealers to become IT certified. The answer largely went unaddressed, but we all know the answer. The discussion turned briefly to the AV industry's attempts to educate itself. Certainly, publications such as Pro AV and others have included more content dedicated to networking and IT topics, but session topics at our trade shows include only a handful directly related to what AV integrators need to know about the tech world. At InfoComm, for example, I counted only about 12 out of 120 sessions with specific IT titles.

An IT consultant asked panel members what manufacturers were doing to educate the IT world on AV technologies. Again, no real answer, except from the questioner himself in the form of a somewhat prophetic comment:"There will be more and more of us coming to these (AV) shows."

Clearly, our IT brothers and sisters are making the effort to educate themselves on AV. Next year, it will be even easier for them to do so when InfoComm co-locates with the telecom/IT-oriented NXTcomm show in Las Vegas.

What is not clear is whether we are doing all we can to absorb all things IT. Judging from our tendency to rehash the same topics year after year, maybe we are not grasping IT as quickly as we should. In our effort to cross the chasm, we seem to be suspended over it in midair.

Mark Mayfield
Editor



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