Why Inspired Acquisitions Are All The Rage

7/18/2007 12:00:00 AM
By PSN Staff

Only a few short years ago, companies in the AV and integration business tended to grow by buying market share. Manufacturers would acquire direct competitors whose product lines were similar, in the hope that they could simply double their customer base at a stroke. Integrators would buy up counterparts in other states, on the assumption that it was the easiest way to go from being a local player to a national one.

Neither approach worked particularly well for anybody, which is why, in some circles, it is still fashionable to pour scorn on companies that hit the acquisition trail as soon as they have some hard cash in the bank. But look closely at this year's major corporate buys, and a different picture emerges.

Take the news that Christie has purchased Vista Systems as an example. Multiple-image systems are the future for many applications, and Vista's image-processing technology perfectly complements Christie's expertise in video projection. The two companies have already been working together on high-profile projects and, as Christie President and COO Jack Kline put it to me recently, the deal gives Vista customers the chance to "experience the world-class service and support" that have helped Christie grow so impressively in recent years. So there's a solid business rationale, as well as a technological one.

Much the same can be said of the deal that has brought Inspiration Matters into the AMX fold. Like Vista, Inspiration Matters is a company that has unique solutions -- in this case, a digital signage delivery platform that has been widely acclaimed for its flexibility and ease of use. But its products are barely known outside the U.K., while AMX's reach is truly global.

So this acquisition, though it may seem unlikely, is another great example of our industry growing up. It has the potential to bring specialized R&D excellence to a much wider audience, and to give integrators working in the public-display field access to what AMX President and CEO Rashid Skaf calls "a virtual one-stop shop for digital signage solutions that will meet nearly any audiovisual communication need."

I'm not pretending that our industry now knows all it needs to know about big business. Or that there won't still be some less-than-clever deals done in the years to come. But I do think people are now thinking more carefully before they put their hands in their pockets. And that has to be a good thing, doesn't it?

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