Cisco offers a peek into future of AV at ISE 2008

Cisco offers a peek into future of AV at ISE 2008

ISE success suggests the AV market will grow ­ and Cisco plans to be a major player

Some sectors of the IT industry might be in decline, but the audiovisual (AV) market is booming ­ if the success of the ISE (Integrated Systems Engineering) Show 2008 in Amsterdam is an accurate gauge.

Dan Goldstein, a representative for show organiser Infocom, reported that exhibition space for the event sold out weeks in advance.

UK visitors such as Jon Sidwick, managing director of distributor Maverick, and Darren Lewitt, divisional director at rival Midwich, described the show as impressive and very exciting. “The entire industry used to descend on Infocom in America, but now Europe has its own show, so we do not all have to schlep over there,” said Sidwick. “If you are in AV, this is not an event to miss.”

But is the boom in product numbers likely to precede a commoditisation of the market? Will there be a sea change in the AV market, as margins on hardware disappear and services represent a more realistic source of margins? And who stands to gain as the AV market evolves?

Market figures show the AV market is mushrooming. Research firm Gartner predicts the market will be worth $12.8bn (£6.4bn) by 2011.

ISE 2008 was characterised by increasingly diverse products coming onto the market.
For Sidwick, the rise of digital signage is pretty significant. “Digital signage is a truly networkable AV product and the maturity of this product shows how the convergence of AV and IT is finally happening. The fact that
Cisco had a big presence at the show is a strong endorsement too,” he said.

For Colin Farquhar, chief executive of IPTV vendor Exterity, the totemic presence of Cisco at the show was a great morale boost. “It was a great show. I met a lot of engineers interested in getting into this market.

And Cisco’s presence had a lot of impact. Of course, you know that for every bit of AV kit that is sold, it sells five times as much networking hardware,” he said.

Frederic Groussolles, Cisco’s marketing manager for digital media systems, said Cisco’s presence at the show owed as much to market research as it did to showcasing its own technology. “We have invested heavily in this market, but the feedback we received from professionals with years of AV experience is just as valuable. Analogue mode may be disappearing, but the knowledge base of people who have worked with it cannot be discarded.”

For Groussolles, the convergence of AV and networking is like the collision of voice and data seven years ago. Once again, Cisco will attempt to bring two traditional channels into one converged, hybrid market. “Our networking people are showing a lot of interest in evolving to sell into this market. On the other hand, we need to coax some of the analogue traditionalists to accept the gifts that IP could present,” he said.

Cisco’s involvement in this market shows that IP has made a critical penetration into the AV world, argued analyst Bob Tarzey, service director at Quocirca. “Cisco does not enter a new market unless it expects to become a leading player. Its target for each new advanced technology it introduces is upwards of a billion dollars,” he said.

Tarzey added: “Look at the impact Cisco had on storage networking. Before it started pushing IP to do this, most storage networking was done using fibre channel. Two vendors fought it out ­ McData and Brocade. Cisco’s entry eventually caused them to merge and fight as one,” he said.

The AV market will become more lucrative, driven by the demand for information everywhere ­ from in-store video adverts to warnings of delays at bus stops, Tarzey predicted. “But the main AV players should be planning how they are going to fight Cisco’s entry into the market.”

However, networking experts should not get too carried away with the idea that tomorrow’s AV market belongs to them, warned Darren Lewitt at Midwich. “There is still a need for a good understanding of visual aesthetics. This market is not just about selling products, it is about supplying solutions ­ quite complex solutions that require more than just a knowledge of internet protocol.”

Lewitt illustrated his point ­ that success in the AV market depends more on understanding human psychology than knowledge of TCP/IP’s various functions ­ with the rise of high-definition video conferencing.

“High-definition picture video makes a dramatic difference in people’s perception of this technology and this could stimulate as much interest as anything,” he said.