Analyzing the Significance of Microsoft Exhibiting at InfoComm 2014

With AV-IT convergence now more real than ever, how will the show—and industry—change?

The news about Microsoft signing on as a platinum sponsor at InfoComm 2014 is spreading quickly around the AV industry, with the guys at AV Week discussing the move just a few hours after the official announcement, to the disbelief—and delight—of many.

“It doesn’t surprise me they came in big,” says Joe Andrulis, VP of global marketing at AMX. “They see AV is going to principally be a network-driven service. That suggests to me a big expansion in how AV is going to be consumed.”

After a decade or so of “convergence” being a major buzzword among those on both sides of the AV and IT aisle, Microsoft’s move could signal that it’s finally here.

“We’ve been talking about this for quite a while,” says AV Week host Tim Albright. On Episode 125 of the show, he talked about how a friend recently sent him a copy of a photo he took at InfoComm in 2000 or 2001 that had a banner promoting “convergence!”

Albright suggests Microsoft is trying to make XBox 1 “the box you go to for everything,” suggesting the company is clearly angling for more of a share in the residential market.

“There’s room for everyone in this market,” says George Tucker, engineering coordinator for World Stage, on the live podcast.

Adrian Boyd, senior systems designer at Avitecture, jokingly wondered if attendees of this year’s InfoComm show in Las Vegas will see “a giant XBox demo” in the middle of the floor at the convention center. He says Microsoft “has been involved with AV for a long time.”

“They’re very tech-savvy and always on the cusp of something,” says Boyd, pointing to Microsoft’s work in mapping rooms and projecting images in their product release press conferences.

“They may not make a lot of hardware, but they have a lot of partnerships with hardware manufacturers so this is showing that integration,” says Boyd. “When you see someone come into our space and show something different, it’s always a positive thing.”

Here’s more of the AV Week discussion on the big announcement:

In the press release announcing the move, InfoComm executive director and CEO David Labuskes calls the addition of Microsoft “an important milestone in the show’s history.

“The decade-long conversation about the convergence of AV and IT technology has been realized,” saysLabuskes in the press release.

So, could Microsoft’s decision—and Cisco’s presence in the commercial space through its Tandberg acquisition in 2011—mean other primarily IT companies are on the InfoComm show floor this summer or in future years?

“I’m more surprised Google isn’t there already,” says Andrulis. “Their Web RTC is a pure AV play and sets up very conveniently for this market.”

The good news for Google, or others who want to be seen by 35,000 or so people in Sin City, is there’s still time to buy a booth. It’s a whole new world now that convergence has officially arrived, so the possibilities are seemingly limitless now.