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Are Personal Electronics Changing AV? by Christopher Maione

I've been part of the personal electronics evolution, and have watched mass adoption closely. Cell phones have evolved into smart phones and PDAs. Laptops have morphed. Now Netbooks are upon us. For under $200 you can easily purchase a compact digital camera which is thin, rechargeable, has a zoom lens, 15 megapixel resolution and will even shoot HD video clips. Our phones now have built in video cameras for both stills and video (seriously, would a “real” digital camera have ringtones?). We have iPhones, iPads, Pixi's, Propel's, Ally's, Blackberry’s and Droids -- which have turned our society into a nonstop world of texting, emailing, surfing, tweeting and FB, all from the power of our fingers (or thumbs).

So with all this personal hand held technology, why haven't we seen more impact in the world of professional AV?

Sure, all the control manufacturer were first on the bandwagon writing apps for the iPhone and iPad but does anybody know a real world business case where an iPhone or iPad is actually controlling a mission critical AV system?

To my surprise, other industry “experts” are now reporting the “convergence” of consumer electronics and professional AV equipment. Frankly, I don’t see it.

The world of “consumer electronics” is still very much separated from commercial AV. AV systems still require fairly complex control systems, touch panel etc. Yet we are all walking around with just as much horsepower in our hands. Today, I’m doing a fairly large presentation and sure enough I have my laptop and VGA cable in my bag. But I also am packing my digital camera and of course my CrackBerry. I’ll be presenting to a board via a video projector from my laptop. So where is the “seamless integration and convergence?”

In January 2010 Blackberry introduced an interface which allowed you to display a PowerPoint presentation directly from a BB to a flat panel or video projector. “BlackBerry PowerPoint 'Presenter' Lets You Lose the Laptop” great idea – but this never really took off. RIM should realize their products are the preferred choice in the corporate / commercial world and get with the program by designing and providing interfaces for commercial AV systems – or soon we will all be ditching our BB’s for iPads. (RIM folks – give me a call!)

Commercial AV has been invaded by ever changing formats (Beta, VHS, DVD, BluRay etc.) and have had to react to changing formats and protocols including the various digital media formats such as DVI and HDMI – and of course, interfacing with an iPod. By “react” I mean trying to find means of “interfacing” these devices with commercial AV systems. But why? Was it to play a DVD with digital copyright protection? Was it about really about convergence? Hardly. The core of most business / educational presentations are spreadsheets, documents, PowerPoint and web based content. So when will the commercial AV market and consumer electronics market converge where personal devices (Smartphone's / PDA's) will readily (and easily) interface with commercial AV systems in a manner which is actually useful?

It seems to me that more and more of the commercial AV manufacturers are simply trying to keep up with the consumer electronics industry to be somewhat “compatible” and to jump on the consumer hype associated with whatever technology is being advertised and promoted. Surround Sound – wonderful stuff for movies, but where is the corporate application? Let’s talk 3D, sure, great stuff – but where will this really take us in commercial AV? Perhaps some form of 3D telepresence suites once we figure out how to ditch the glasses.

Let me know when I can walk into a conference room, drop my Blackberry on the table (no wires), access files, spreadsheets or presentations stored on my corporate or Exchange based server and display it on the AV system flat panel or video projector. At that point, we can talk about real convergence and real impact of personal electronics on business AV applications and then, I can pack a whole light lighter for the next board meeting.

Christopher J. Maione, CTS-D, is president of Christopher Maione Associates. Reach him at