George Tucker, meet CS Lewis

I was reading a Tucker Tuesday blog today that commented on the Apollo landing, and the state of today’s education system and societal attitudes about this type of scientific excellence.

It struck a chord with me, as science was always my favorite subject.  I was a Biomedical Engineering student for the first part of my college experience, later changing to Zoology, so to say my coursework was full of Chemistry, Physics, and Biology would be an understatement.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of a little gem written by CS Lewis in 1959 called “Screwtape Proposes a Toast”.  It was a follow up to the Screwtape Letters, a novel he wrote.  For those unfamiliar, the book is a set of letters written by Screwtape, a demon who is corresponding with his nephew, a “tempter” on earth charged with leading a man’s soul to hell.  It’s a rather chilling piece actually, worth a spin, even if you are not religiously inclined.

So CS Lewis extended that persona when he wrote “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” for the Saturday Evening Post and leveled a blow at what happens when we take the principles of equality too far, to enforcing equality through education, as opposed to giving people equal rights and then recognizing that individuals have unique talents that should be encouraged to grow to their limits. . .

Read the excerpt and tell me what you think, or if it’s too long, read the portions in red:)

“My own experience, as I have said, was mainly on the English sector, and I still get more news from it than from any other. It may be said that what I am now going to say will not apply so fully to the sectors in which some of you may be operating. But you can make the necessary adjustments when you get there. Some application it will almost certainly have. If it has too little, you must labor to make the country you are dealing with more like what England already is.

In that promising land the spirit of I’m as good as you has already begun something more than a generally social influence. It begins to work itself into their educational system. How far its operations there have gone at the present moment, I should not like to say with certainty. Nor does it matter. Once you have grasped the tendency, you can easily predict its future developments; especially as we ourselves will play our part in the developing. The basic principle of the new education is to be that dunces and idlers must not be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils. That would be “undemocratic.” These differences between pupils – for they are obviously and nakedly individual differences – must be disguised. This can be done at various levels. At universities, examinations must be framed so that nearly all the students get good marks. Entrance examinations must be framed so that all, or nearly all, citizens can go to universities, whether they have any power (or wish) to profit by higher education or not. At schools, the children who are too stupid or lazy to learn languages and mathematics and elementary science can be set to doing things that children used to do in their spare time. Let, them, for example, make mud pies and call it modelling. But all the time there must be no faintest hint that they are inferior to the children who are at work. Whatever nonsense they are engaged in must have – I believe the English already use the phrase – “parity of esteem.” An even more drastic scheme is not possible. Children who are fit to proceed to a higher class may be artificially kept back, because the others would get a trauma — Beelzebub, what a useful word! – by being left behind. The bright pupil thus remains democratically fettered to his own age group throughout his school career, and a boy who would be capable of tackling Aeschylus or Dante sits listening to his coeval’s attempts to spell out A CAT SAT ON A MAT.

In a word, we may reasonably hope for the virtual abolition of education when I’m as good as you has fully had its way. All incentives to learn and all penalties for not learning will be prevented; who are they to overtop their fellows? And anyway the teachers – or should I say, nurses? – will be far too busy reassuring the dunces and patting them on the back to waste any time on real teaching. We shall no longer have to plan and toil to spread imperturbable conceit and incurable ignorance among men. The little vermin themselves will do it for us.

Of course, this would not follow unless all education became state education. But it will. That is part of the same movement. Penal taxes, designed for that purpose, are liquidating the Middle Class, the class who were prepared to save and spend and make sacrifices in order to have their children privately educated. The removal of this class, besides linking up with the abolition of education, is, fortunately, an inevitable effect of the spirit that says I’m as good as you. This was, after all, the social group which gave to the humans the overwhelming majority of their scientists, physicians, philosophers, theologians, poets, artists, composers, architects, jurists, and administrators. If ever there were a bunch of stalks that needed their tops knocked off, it was surely they. As an English politician remarked not long ago, “A democracy does not want great men.”

It would be idle to ask of such a creature whether by want it meant “need” or “like.” But you had better be clear. For here Aristotle’s question comes up again.

We, in Hell, would welcome the disappearance of democracy in the strict sense of that word, the political arrangement so called. Like all forms of government, it often works to our advantage, but on the whole less often than other forms. And what we must realize is that “democracy” in the diabolical sense (I’m as good as you, Being Like Folks, Togetherness) is the fittest instrument we could possibly have for extirpating political democracies from the face of the earth.

For “democracy” or the “democratic spirit” (diabolical sense) leads to a nation without great men, a nation mainly of subliterates, full of the cocksureness which flattery breeds on ignorance, and quick to snarl or whimper at the first sign of criticism. And that is what Hell wishes every democratic people to be. For when such a nation meets in conflict a nation where children have been made to work at school, where talent is placed in high posts, and where the ignorant mass are allowed no say at all in public affairs, only one result is possible.

The democracies were surprised lately when they found that Russia had got ahead of them in science. What a delicious specimen of human blindness! If the whole tendency of their society is opposed to every sort of excellence, why did they expect their scientists to excel?

It is our function to encourage the behaviour, the manners, the whole attitude of mind, which democracies naturally like and enjoy, because these are the very things which, if unchecked, will destroy democracy. You would almost wonder that even humans don’t see it themselves. Even if they don’t read Aristotle (that would be undemocratic) you would have thought the French Revolution would have taught them that the behaviour aristocrats naturally like is not the behaviour that preserves aristocracy. They might then have applied the same principle to all forms of government.”


The AVNation Rap Battle

Battle Rap

At InfoComm13, Chris Neto tried to organize a rap battle between the AVPhenom (me) and @Vaddio_Hailey, from the camera and conferencing powerhouse, Vaddio.

I came ready, in my Superman shirt and tried to egg her on a little :)  Anyway, she was afraid to embarrass me in front of the whole TweetUp crew, so she suggested that we throw down 140 characters at a time on Twitter.  For anyone who missed it, here is the transcript.

Who won?  We’ll let you decide.  Read through the transcript and cast your vote in the poll below!

Vaddio_Hailey Jun 13, 6:09pm via Twitter for iPhone

What up AV I know you be lookin for a rap. Aww Snap in your superman shirt imma make it hurt cuz I be rappin like a felon what up?

AVPhenom Jun 13, 7:06pm via LG Phone

They yelled action, into action I flew, while you stood still watchin with your camera crew!

AVPhenom Jun 15, 12:32pm via HootSuite

You’re on VTC but I’m live in your face, your systems’ droppin packets like I’m droppin bass /

AVPhenom Jun 15, 12:34pm via HootSuite

You control cameras but you can’t control me, I’m the A-V-Phenom, your Tech-nolo-G! /

AVPhenom Jun 15, 12:37pm via HootSuite

I’m the number one rapper in this #AVNation, and you’re still tremblin’ at your HuddleStation

Vaddio_Hailey Jun 15, 3:05pm via Twitter for iPhone

Hashtags and packets how can I beat that? @AVPhenom you may be clever but your rap is crap.

Vaddio_Hailey Jun 15, 3:06pm via Twitter for iPhone

Truth is our HuddleSTATION is what VTC needs but oooh you know about technology

Vaddio_Hailey Jun 15, 3:07pm via Twitter for iPhone

So sorry @AVPhenom didn’t mean to make you hurt, time to go cry in your superman shirt

AVPhenom Jun 15, 3:38pm via HootSuite

That’s all whack, I’ll never run and cry, I’m like an Alpaca spittin rhymes in your eye /

AVPhenom Jun 15, 3:41pm via HootSuite

My rhymes ring true and yours are all phony, go put some more stickers on cameras made by Sony /

AVPhenom Jun 15, 3:42pm via HootSuite

Just like MultiTouch, I’m interactive, this rap used to be longer but it’s been redacted

Vaddio_Hailey Jun 15, 3:57pm via Twitter for iPhone

Made in the USA is what we do. All our products made from the red white and blue.

AVPhenom Jun 15, 4:00pm via HootSuite

My rhymes are sharp but all in good fun, you know that in my book @vaddio ‘s #1

AVPhenom Jun 15, 4:43pm via HootSuite

She’s out on her feet someone give her a nudge, this battle is over, please don’t hold a grudge :)

Switch Wars

Switch Wars

Switch Wars

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. . . .

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If anyone has been following the Crestron/Extron/AMX Video Shootout of their HDMI switchers, let me start be saying. . . WAKE UP!  I’m sure the 5 minute demonstrations have lullled you into a slumber, so get some coffee.

I will first take AMX out of the fray here, because their response video was awesome.  1 minute of “who cares”, with some quick red asterisks pointing out the “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire” sections of the original Crestron Demo.  I give AMX a free pass to Endor.  Go have a great Friday, those Ewoks really know how to party!

As for the other two. . .It’s hard to tell who the Evil Empire is and who is the Rebel Alliance.

Crestron obviously took little care to set up a controlled demo, or  could have purposefully slanted the demo in their favor.  If they did the latter, they are no better than Best Buy and the other box stores whose salespeople turn up the color and brightness settings on the TVs they want to move that month, so they look brighter than their low margin, out of stock counterparts.

Extron responds by setting up a controlled demo, and then saying “look over here” while playing slight of hand with their stopwatch and button presses.  Don’t get me wrong, given that Crestron took the first punch and didn’t care to make sure the equipment was set up the same, turnabout is fair play.

None of this changes the fact however that the whole video switch shootout is just a big distraction.

I’m hearing Vader tell me to “Search my Feelings”, so here they are:  We are stuck in a galaxy of AV that is dependent on HDMI, and given its variances, the real world performance of either of these switches will pale in comparison to these controlled video demos.

Take a closer look at both videos and as an integrator think about these things.

1)      In the Extron demo all cables are the same length and all source material is 1080p.  When was the last time you had a job where that happened?  Different run lengths, 720p signals on satellite, SD video on legacy gear, etc are the real world we live in.

2)       In both videos the Sony Display and the BenQ display have dramatically different switching times.  In the real world we are faced with various models and brands of screens being integrated into one job, and neither switcher can provide a ready, set, go that triggers all screen sequally.

3)      HDMI extenders throw a whole new kink in the chain.  Copper based extenders are commonly used and commonly don’t work as needed.  It may be due to the source and sink, it may be due to the cable length and EMF, it may be due to poor tolerances on the extender, but whatever the case, unless you’re transmitting at Light Speed over fiber, you risk some major problems.

So congratulations Crestron and Extron!  Neither video has helped serve any purpose or proven anything definitively.  My guess is the switching time is probably the same if you add up and average the large variance in times across brands and models.

At the end of the day, no one cares how many parsecs it takes your ship to do the Kessel Run if the journey takes us through a star system with pink sparkles and black holes that swallow video randomly.

I think you both have been indulging in your own glitterstim spice along the way.

“Help me HD-SDI, you’re my only hope.”

Jumping Through Hoops with Yandex

Yandex embarks on the most expensive solution to losing your remote control. . .ever.

Tech Crunch’s Natasha Lomas just wrote a very interesting piece on Russia’s Google-esque alter ego, Yandex, and their new Gesture Control initiatives.

To borrow from Ms. Lomas-

j2“Here’s how Yandex describes the app on its blog:”

“The application features videos, music, photos and news shared by the user’s friends on social networks in a silent ‘screen saver’ mode. As soon as the user notices something interesting on the TV screen, they can easily play, open or interact with the current media object using hand gestures. For example, they can swipe their hand horizontally to flip through featured content, push a “magnetic button” to play music or video, move hands apart to open a news story for reading and then swipe vertically to scroll through it.”

Given our current fascination with gesture tracking, this all seems very exciting on the surface.  I also love the actual look and feel of the on-screen User Interface that Yandex has been testing.  However, upon some closer examination, isn’t this a lot of work to solve a problem that really doesn’t exist?

Everything described in the paragraph above is more easily done with the Up, Down, Left, Right, Enter and Back buttons on the remote controls we use currently to control these devices.  From personal experience, owning an X-Box with Kinect, I gladly get up and find the game controller when navigating X-Box Live content, as the gesture control and voice interfaces are still very unreliable at times.  The only value I could see in this would be in the ability to control the system when the remote is absent, in which case, I guess digging through the sofa cushions would just take WAY too much energy.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a definite place for gesture technology in the world, this just isn’t it.

I think there are strong indicators for when gesture control adds value.

1)      Sanitation Concerns - Sometimes environmental factors may dictate that gesture is used as an interface as opposed to using a physical device like a game controller, remote, or touch screen.

2)      Loss Prevention - In public environments where there is the potential to lose a control device, gesture may be a good fit.  In many cases though touchscreens would be more reliable and intuitive.

3)      Large Scale or Remote Access - In some cases, there are environments where a physical controller could be lost or damaged, and the potential media is displayed in an environment, location, or on a mega scale, touch is not a viable option, and gesture becomes the preferred method of interactivity.

4)      ADA Concerns - In many cases, users may not have the required dexterity and motor function to us a controller, and gesture tracking could be a huge assist in allowing those people equal access.  On the surface, even gesture may be too complicated for some, which is why I love some of the eye tracking cameras and software for device control as a solution to ADA concerns.

In any place where gesture is being considered, lighting concerns, user learning curves, and registration and interference problems are all things to think about seriously before deciding on a gesture based interface.  There are also limits to the number of simultaneous users that may come into play.  I think R&D is a good thing, and maybe Yandex’s research will open the doors to new possibilities in other arenas, I just don’t see this as a great fit for someone sitting in their living room.

Gesture tracking has a solid foundation in gamification, which is why Kinect has been such a success.  As a parent I love that my kids have to exercise to play games.  On that same note, I don’t want to be required to play games with my system to change the channel or stream music or a movie, when the tried and true controller is 2 feet away.

Commercial Integrators Needed to Help Build an Ark.

Commercial Integrators take heed. . . the flood is coming.  According to a recent survey, home integration is not recovering, and the plan for many resi integrators is to go after the digital signage market.

You can imagine my feelings on this.  In a DS market that is already plagued by 15 different methodologies, 900 manufacturers of nearly identical and equally unreliable Cat-based video extenders, and dozens of digital signage players and  CMS systems, an influx of unskilled labor is the last thing we need.

I have written and spoken in the past about the intricacies of video traffic and the importance of a firm foundation in IT in developing these networks.  Unfortunately, in my experience, this is almost a universally weak area for resi integrators, meaning that they are not ready for prime time in this area.

So let the rains begin to fall.

Confucius say

Commercial Integrators will need to build an ark to withstand the oncoming storm.  The ark should be made of tried and true products, IT skillsets, and Content Creation services that will keep your business afloat in a sea of mediocrity.  Larger clients will be able to look down on the flood from their mountain tops, and hopefully decide to not submerge themselves in those murky waters of mediocrity, instead deciding to look to the horizon for silhouette of our ark, one that contains a deposit of faith and knowledge, that ultimately will survive when the flood waters recede.

We need to promote our experience in the markets that are relevant, and point out that the low bidder may have done a great job at your house, but he is not well equipped to build out your DS system.

Resi integrators who enter the waters and fail, need to cling to their floatation devices if they hope to wash up on the shore of their promised land of home theater and automation again in the future.

Sometimes chickens should stay on their side of the road.  Ones that venture over to the feeding grounds of other creatures may just find that they get themselves pushed backward into the highway, and thrown under the bus.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The “Non-Automatic” Toothbrush

Point of reference is a very interesting thing.  It is the cause of almost every conflict, proven by the fact that in almost every argument, fight, or war, both sides are convinced that they are right.  I mean, who would willingly die for something they felt was “wrong”?  Point of reference also has a very interesting impact on our language, and the terminology we use to describe things.

This morning, I told my son to go brush his teeth.  About a minute later, I hear his voice call to me from upstairs, “Daddy, can I use my non-automatic toothbrush?”  I chuckled but it started me thinking.  My first thought was that there was a more elegant way to say this, being “manual toothbrush”.  But upon another few seconds of contemplation I realized that the word “toothbrush” in itself should be the way to say this.  I mean “automatic” was added to describe a toothbrush that was NOT manual, so eliminating the word automatic should undo this sufficiently.  However, I soon realized I was wrong, all based on point of reference.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

To a six year old boy, who had brushed with an “automatic toothbrush” for as long as he could remember, “automatic” was the de facto standard and base level expectation.  The word toothbrush in itself implies “automatic” in his mind, even when the term itself was not used.  “Non-Automatic” actually describes how his brain has to work to disassociate the two concepts from one another.

So, I know what you’re thinking. . .

“Mark, what point are you trying to make in this blog and its excessive use of “bold italics”?”

Well, it has a few implications to be sure.  We need to be conscious of the point of reference of our audiences and potential customers.  They all bring with them a point of reference that they measure your brand experience against.  This standard will vary greatly across demographics.  Boiling down those expectations to create a message that speaks to all of them, may no be easily done.  Here are three easy rules to follow when creating messaging in these situations.

1)      Reduce and simplify. 

Remember math class when dealing with fractions.  To get to the simplest form, you have to divide by the Greatest Common Factor (GCF).  Determine what your products GCFs are for your audience and use those to craft your messaging.

2)      Tell and retell. 

Tell your brand story in a way that speaks to each audience.  Reinforce key points through the use of multiple points of reference, either in repeating features in different ways, or by creating tracts for your messaging that are used in individual conversations with smaller audiences.

3)      Stay Fluid

Remember that new points of reference are just one event away.  The next smart phone, world event, or news story could have a dramatic impact on creating or changing a point of reference.  Continually assess your audience to make sure you are speaking to the best ones at any given time.

I think Abraham Lincoln had one of the best quotes on point of reference.  He knew that his personal motivations and experience greatly affected the sides he chose on issues in life, both personal and political.

Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side.”

In the same way, it is easier to proselytize for our brands and products when we choose to meet customer’s where they are at, in their point of reference, as opposed to trying to convert them to our own.

 

Missed Opportunities: Get Engaged!

Ok, so being the AV geek I am, I was doing my daily reading of @CommIntegrator (Commercial Integrator Magazine for the Twitterless) when I stumbled upon an article about the use of Technology at Cake Boss, a high-end bakery with a very popular TV show.

First and foremost, I applaud any company that embraces the use of new technology to realize efficiencies in their business, and Cake Boss is no exception.  I love to see how automation and remote access of/to a businesses systems helps them save money and stay in real-time control.  I think it shows how automation has moved out of the boardroom and 7 figure home, and into environments  and markets that were not seen as real market opportunities, even 7-10 years ago.

I am always a bit disappointed though when the technology stops there.  I read an article like the one @CraigMacCormack wrote and see missed opportunity.  A company like Cake Boss deals with engaged people all the time, so why not create some engagement of their own?

Wedding-Ring-Finger1

In an environment like Cake Boss, where customization seems to be integral to success, how great would it be to have a window display with a white backdrop, white floor, white table, and a model of a white cake positioned inside?  On its own, sounds pretty sterile huh?

Now add a couple of projectors and some pixel mapping, coupled with an interactive window, where people change the backdrop to the beach at sunset, the floor to a grassy cliff, the table to a white linen topped with rose petals, and drag and drop all of these into the scene real-time, also decorating the cake with custom colors and messaging.  Now you have an interactive Diorama of sorts that lets people start to explore the possibilities of dessert in their specific venue.  Not only does it help sell the ideas of “custom” bakery items, and solidify the high-end Cake Boss experience, but it also creates a destination where people come just to see the display.  A system like that would take the cake. (More puns to follow)

I’m sorry Elan on an iPad, but you will never draw a crowd in isolation in the same way that this would.

I wonder when and where these unique environments will emerge, and who will be the forward thinking companies that embrace them, and which AV firms will be positioned to put that icing on the cake? (I warned you)

@AVPhenom

Be Brave Corporate America! Will You Turtle Up or Fight Back?

Years ago, when I used to compete in Muay Thai kickboxing, I found out that there were only two options when getting in the ring and finding yourself under attack.

Option 1 was to “Turtle Up”, bringing all your limbs in close to your body and trying not to get hurt.  You would most likely not get knocked out this way, but you would definitely lose the fight, even if you made it through to the final bell.

Tortoise-66

Option 2 was to Fight Back.  Of course this didn’t mean dropping your hands, and charging chin first into the opposing fighter, that would be suicide.  It did however mean coming out of your guard, and taking the offense, absorbing each blow from the opposition, and counterpunching to your best effect.  Sure, there was the risk that you may get caught unexpectedly with a devastating blow, but there was also the chance of standing at the end with your hand raised in victory.

So why do I bring this up this morning?  I am a customer of several Fortune 500 companies.  That in itself is not unique, the very fact that they are large companies means that most of us probably do business with them.  I also don’t believe I am unique in finding that more and more these companies are severely lacking in resolving issues with their products and services.  It is a specific case of businesses deciding to Turtle Up.

The poor economy and meandering profits has somehow convinced many companies today to go into protection mode.  They hear sounds of potential danger and quickly pull their heads into their shells.  Funnily enough, the vibrations that cause them panic, may have just been the rumblings of economic opportunity.  In today’s world of social media, excessive blogging (case in point, lol), and crowd sourcing, the sharing of these narratives about poor customer service, lack of follow through, and just out right penny pinching by these corporations, avoiding responsibility for poor workmanship and service at all costs, actually extends rather than decreases their hardships.

Sometimes, sticking your head out when you hear potential trouble, is the only way to gain perspective on your surroundings, and to find a way to push forward through challenges, instead of riding them out inside the comfort of a corporate shell.

I know I for one will always deal with companies who face challenges, address potential issues, and show me that they have the spirit needed to fight and win in the future.  The other carnivorous giants will all end up going the way of the T-Rex eventually if they do not evolve, leaving the world to be inhabited by a new breed of businesses.

K is for Knucklehead- Why 4K at Home Will Not Replace the Movie Theater.

I have a great deal of respect for Andrew Robinson and his AV blog, especially considering his background in AV and his career as a filmmaker. Today I read his thesis that the combination of streaming and 4K will kill the commercial theater, and I have to say, I thought it was dead wrong.

Knucklehead

I have seen many theses like this before. Technology epidemics sweep through society and kill off well established industries. It’s the classic Buggles prophecy of “Video Killed the Radio Star.” The truth is though, it hasn’t historically happened that way.
Books are still printed in the era of iBooks and Kindle; newspapers are still printed in the wake of USAToday.com; radio still has a vast audience decades after the introduction of TV; AM and FM still exist next to Satellite and HD radio; Video Teleconferencing hasn’t stopped business travel; and 4k will not kill the commercial theater anytime soon.
This is the same Buck Rogers and the 21st Century panic that spurred the eugenics movement in the 30’s to sterilize the weaker races and mentally retarded as world population would grow at a level unsustainable, turning earth into one big ghetto if action was not taken ASAP. That never happened either.
The truth is, commercial theaters have no reason to worry. If you take Robinson’s other theory that media discs will be replaced by streaming, because it’s “not about quality” but convenience, then really 4k should have absolutely zero to do with the demise anyway. If it’s not about quality, and about instant gratification, then Netflix should have already slung David’s stone at the Studio giants. I haven’t heard the resounding thud of Goliath yet.
The truth is that the movies are a social experience. Going to a film and viewing it with 200 other people creates an emotional climate that differs from sitting in your basement with 1 70” flat panel and some strobe-ur-vision glasses. I never laughed harder at a movie than I did in a theater the first time I saw Something About Mary or American Pie, two films that weren’t nearly as funny at home. The effect of hundreds laughing simultaneously is contagious, and it feels good.
I was never more scared at a movie than when I saw Christian Bale and Samuel L. duke it out in Shaft at a midnight showing in an urban theater. I was one of two suburban white guys in a theater full of Hispanics and African Americans yelling at the screen in what seemed like foreign dialects. It was exhilarating and a great cultural experience for me.
I would also argue that as long as parents have young kids at home, the movies will be alive and well. Being married for 12 years, any escape that provides 2 hours of relief is welcome, and well worth paying $87 for $1.32 worth of popcorn and soda.
Instant gratification is great, but escape is better. In a dark theater you’re not looking at your phone, getting up to check email, or pausing the movie to check on a coughing child upstairs, or turning down the subwoofer so no one wakes up.
IT is an environment that submerges you in the movie without interruption, creates a community you can’t recreate by live tweeting through a film at home, and ultimately allows you to socialize in a very unique way with other humans by sharing an experience.
This is the reason we see movies released again in theaters, like Star Wars or Titanic or Avatar. It’s because the Silver Screen has a lot to offer, even when you have 4K and 7.1 already at home.

Is Magic Still Alive?

I was reading an article on the Tucker Tuesday Blog about Magical Thinking and it inspired me to think a little about his question of whether an AV System that lives outside of the Apple environment will be viable in the future, or if the “legacy” systems we are installing today are the last of the dinosaurs slowly dying off after the Apple meteor’s impact.

Being in AV integration for the last decade, I have worked for a couple different firms doing everything from structured wiring in residences to high end AV for museum and visitor’s center environments.  For this reason, I agree with Mr. Tucker that there will be some market for proprietary AV systems and system design in the future that does not involve the Apple portfolio, at least not in it’s “out of the box store” state.

In an increasingly competitive world it becomes more and more difficult to pay attention to your message.  Apple has done a great job of creating mindshare in the marketplace, and creating an ecosystem of hardware, software and services that continues to keep them at the top.  It is that same success that will make it more and more difficult for Apple to stay there.  As adoption of Apple products becomes wider and wider, ans as they are determined to be the defacto standard for AV installations, they will inevitably become “commonplace”.

One of my favorite “Demotivators” posters from Despair Inc shows a picture of snowflakes and reads:

Individuality

Always remember that you are unique.  Just like everybody else.”

I think this rings true in our industry.  If your strategy to get a customer’s attention or to create corporate buy in or to make your message “stick” uses the same exact delivery method as everyone else, how memorable is it really?  And if you are using the same devices as the potential prospect already owns, what are the chances that they are compelled to come use yours?  The learning curve is low, but so is the prospect’s curiosity.

I remind people frequently that

Your potential customer has access to every piece of information and media they want on a 4″ HD screen that resides in their pocket, and ask “Why will they choose to consume your content instead?”

Using technology in new and unique ways- ways that lower the barrier to participation while still ELEVATING the user experience: ways that capture the imagination of the prospect; ways that make your location a DESTINATION where people say “You HAVE to go see this place” regardless of whether the product or service is a fit or not, just for the experience alone.

Even Apple can lose its edge if every Grandfather and Soccer Mom has a tablet.  Airwalk saw this when they tried to go mainstream and lost the cult following, a concept that was detailed well in Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point.  Part of it’s theme was how

“the Stickiness Factor [that] is generated is unconventional, unexpected, and contrary to received wisdom.”

Only when we think outside the current paradigm, and dive deeper into the user experience can we truly continue to deserve our spot as AV Integrators and justify our existence.  We need to continually raise the bar and innovate.  sometimes that means abandoning the things that have traditionally made us money and jumping to the next curve.

The Five Deadly Business Sins as presented by Peter Drucker are:

1) Worshiping high profit margins and “premium pricing”
 2) Mispricing a new product by charging “what the market will bear”
3) Cost-Driven pricing
4) Slaughtering tomorrow’s opportunity on the altar of yesterday
5) Feeding problems and starving opportunities

How many of these has the AV industry been guilty of?  How many are we STILL guilty of?

I would assert all of them.

Selling “protected” lines that can’t be shopped, picking lines based on margin, charging for the same product on a sliding scale based on who the end client is, taking cost and adding 40 points, refusing to adopt new technology until the writing is on the wall, continuing to push antiquated technology based on business practices, avoidance of retraining, etc. . .Does any of that sound familiar?

So, in my opinion, the “magical” thinking comes in when we dare to look at the hidden opportunities in the mass adoption of Apple Ecosystems.  No one struck it rich by digging right on top of Sutter’s Mill, they spread out and staked their own claim, finding their gold in the process.