Unified Communications at InfoComm 2014
Aug 19, 2014 10:03 PM, By David Danto, IMCCA director of emerging technology
When InfoComm 2014 came to a close on June 20, it left attendees in something of a quandary. Many I spoke with were unimpressed by the technology shown in Las Vegas this year, with one commentator even calling it an “evolution, not a revolution.” While I can understand the sentiment—with few, if any “wows” being shown by exhibitors—what became clear to many of us was that the “wow” definitely was there, but in a slightly different way. After years of accepting the status quo in AV, the end-users were at this show, with an army, staging their own “we’re not going to take it anymore” protest that was most definitely nothing short of revolutionary.
This was the 75th anniversary of InfoComm. And with record attendance (of nearly 40,000) and a stellar lineup of exhibitors, it was a fantastic conference and exhibition in many ways, both large and small. As long as I’m speaking about the large and the small, it was clear we had both covered with Microsoft this year. Microsoft was very big news earlier in the year—a first-time platinum sponsor of the show—representing at least a tacit acknowledgment from the IT- and software-centric world that AV actually existed. In contrast, no one could have predicted the utterly and abysmally embarrassing presence Microsoft turned out having at the expo. Tweets from those attending covered it in phrases such as “vast wasteland,” “desert,” “waste of money,” and “Where’s Waldo?”
Microsoft’s booth was a huge, carpeted space with a couple of displays, a sofa or two, some Surface PCs, oh, and space—let’s not leave out the vast areas of empty open space. Most in attendance were either surprised or offended by Microsoft’s uncaring attitude toward those that chose to carve out precious time to attend this conference looking to learn about products and solutions. In reality, it probably speaks volumes about how disjointed a firm Microsoft is that its communications people don’t even show up at the world’s preeminent communications conference. Perhaps there may have been some fear in Redmond, Wash., that Gurdeep Singh Pall’s “Era of Universal Communications” spiel wouldn’t cover it when there are actual communication experts in the room.
In reality, however, this year’s InfoComm wasn’t primarily about any of the exhibitors; it was about the attendees. The Unified Communications and Collaboration Solution Summit (co-presented by InfoComm and the unified communications association, IMCCA) showcased 10 sessions that were wall-to-wall packed with people representing end-user organizations.
For the most part, this group was tired of the “hang and bang” AV dealers shoving 30-year-old, expensive AV solutions at them. They came to this show to speak up about the need to view collaboration in the context of their entire communications ecosystem. The emergence of this theme—that the user experience is the key to communications and much more important than any technology— is as revolutionary as any past theme that emerged at previous InfoComm conferences. Even InfoComm Executive Director and CEO David Labuskes was quoted as saying that in order for the AV industry to remain relevant, it has to “accept the change … [including] seeing a greater dependence on collaboration and communications.”
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