InfoComm 2014, I Shiver With Antici…Pation!

Products and demos at last year’s InfoComm show have been called ‘more evolutionary than revolutionary.’ What trends can you expect to see at this year’s show?

George Tucker

In the commercial integration world, it is that time again.

InfoComm is here and the build up is indicating a doozy of a show. To quote from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, it makes me “Shiver with Antici…Pation.” 

Last year’s show in Orlando broke attendance records as one of the largest ever, and not just for the east coast attendance; the show stands as the biggest so far nationally.

Still, many who attended spoke of the offerings presented by exhibitors, to quote a friend of mine, as “more evolutionary than revolutionary.” 

So what will the macro trends be at this years show?

Microsoft: Barbarians at the Gate?

The news of Microsoft becoming a platinum exhibitor sent waves of shock and bemusement through the integration community. What Microsoft will do this year is a bit of a mystery, but representatives of the company have made efforts to downplay their presence. This could be an effort to stem any angst from established AV manufacturers who incorporate Microsoft products, such as Lync, into theirs. 

The last thing Microsoft wants, at the current moment, is to appear as barbarians at the gate, regardless they cannot avoid being the 300lb gorilla in the room. 

So the murmurs and rumors persist. Will they bring in Insteon as their lighting and automation partner or roll it into the long simmering Home OS (now part of their Lab of Things)?

This year may just be a prelude to a bigger roll out next year. 

Apple: Stealth Player?

Apple is not exhibiting at this years show, nor have they ever. In point of fact, Apple has tended to not exhibit at many trade shows, preferring to maximize their ‘reality distortion field’ at Apple WWDC events. 

Even without being present, Apple is adding to a current of possible consumer companies insinuating themselves into the pro integration market. We already have the iPad as the most ubiquitous system interface for AV systems, followed only the iPhone. 

Apple has danced, a la Microsoft, with its products as central to a ‘home of the future’ and has recently filed patents for an Integrated home service network. Is this why Microsoft has come to play?

Converge! Converge! Converge!

The battle cry has advanced beyond the meshing of audio visual and data networks. If the 2013 show is any indication, the trend toward incorporating third party software into proprietary hardware will only grow. The relationship provides a win-win as the software developer can tap into an eager market and manufacturers get instant name recognition and trust. Look to see more communication, conferencing and work collaboration software to be integrated. 

An even more exciting trend is happening in the reverse direction. More and more speciality control and management manufactures are beginning to license out their architecture to be built into products like projectors and environmental systems. While this ‘retrograde flow’ is only in its embryonic stages with limited features sets, soon we will see full fledged inside offerings from third party systems. 

There is a potential downside to these types of relationships. Software faults and undocumented ‘features’ can wreck havoc. Many of you may recall the great iPod nano fiasco a few years back. Upon the release of new colors Apple, without notifying third party developers, changed the pin configuration, effectively making every third party port in a car, speaker set and system unusable. 

A simple change caused days of support call overflow and rushed firmware changes by hardware manufacturers.

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