SCN: It’s been quite an eventful start to the year for PPDS in North America. As someone who has been with the company for a number of years, how do you view the evolution?
JOE KING: I’m actually entering my sixth year with the company and 34th year representing the Philips brand, which I can hardly believe.
To answer your question, things have evolved quite significantly in order to keep pace with the ever-changing needs of the market and, of course, advancements in technologies. PPDS, which rebranded from Philips Professional Display Solutions in February, is a really exciting company to be a part of, perhaps more so now than ever before. We have seen some incredible global growth and positive changes, not just in terms of products and solutions, but in the overall value we provide to our partners and to end users.
Name: Joe King
Position: Vice President
SCN: How would you describe PPDS in North America?
JK: We’ve always been strong in North America and responsible for a wide variety of fantastic projects and installations. You might say we’ve been performing under the radar for a while, resisting the demand to communicate our successes. But as a business, both locally and globally, we’re expanding. We’re not just investing in our portfolio but in our people, too, and attracting great talent.
We now cater to all major markets, including, retail, education, corporate, healthcare, food and beverage, broadcast, public venues, and hospitality. We know we’re not alone in this, of course, with many of our competitors claiming the same, but at PPDS we try to do things a little differently. Our intention when entering any market is to offer something new and to lead from the front rather than follow what’s been done before—and I truly believe we are doing that.
SCN: How so?
JK: Our focus is on truly understanding and supporting the needs of the market—not only to solve their existing and future challenges, but to help maximize their investments. That may sound obvious, like I’m reciting good PR talk, but it’s how we operate, from the first meeting where an idea is discussed to the moment product solutions are installed … and even beyond that. Also, unlike some, we don’t build hardware and then decide which market it should be sold into. Being part of the world’s biggest provider of consumer displays and monitors, coupled with an enviable and unmatched R&D team, each of our products is built to even the smallest detail to meet the needs of a specific vertical.
SCN: Can you provide some examples?
JK: We recently introduced our T-Line interactive multitouch displays. Producing best-in-class display technology is essential, and to do that, we listened to people who use these products in the field to make sure even small details—such as the positioning of plug sockets and the number of HDMI, USB, and USB-C ports—were designed appropriately.
From a teaching and learning perspective, we’ve acted on feedback to combine hardware and software that encourages greater engagement, collaboration, and interaction between students—whether they are physically in the room, studying remotely, or off sick. Students can use their own device to view and control content seen on the screen and share content. You simply can’t do what T-Line does by taking a generic blank screen and loading a bit of educational software on it and calling it an education display.
SCN: Why did you choose now to return to hospitality? It’s arguably one of the toughest periods in the industry’s history because of the pandemic.
JK: There is something of a stop-start history in the hospitality space for our company under its various guises over the years. As PPDS, everything has now been put in place to meet the needs of our partners and end customers; this wasn’t a kneejerk reaction. We’ve assembled a highly knowledgeable and experienced team, and have launched what we truly consider to be the most complete hospitality TV available anywhere in the current market. The value of Philips MediaSuite to the hotelier and to the hotel guest is vast. Our strategy to offer long-term value aligns perfectly with the needs of the hotel industry during these challenging times, while MediaSuite’s technical capabilities ensures guests have a TV experience comparable to or better than the one they have at home.
SCN: What is Philips MediaSuite and why do you consider it to be different?
JK: That’s a short question with a long answer. In terms of differentiation, the key thing to remember is that Philips MediaSuite is the first smart TV specifically designed for a hotel room. Everything has been designed to create the best possible home-away-from-home experience on the TV, whether it’s for business or pleasure.
Smart TVs are not new, but the ones found in hotels today are based on a consumer smart platform, not a commercial one. That’s hugely significant in terms of capability, usability, and the overall experience. Feedback from our partners, which includes hotel owners and guests, shows that many of the benefits of smart TVs are not getting used, so the expectations are low before the guest even enters the room. That’s not right. But until now, that’s been the reality.
We didn’t want to add another TV to the mix or adopt the common tactic of trying to surpass our competitors by simply adding a brighter or bigger screen and a fancy new name. MediaSuite has been in development since 2015. By taking a fresh and modern approach, we’ve equipped it to overcome the historical frustrations of hotel TVs and address the modern needs and requirements, both for the hotelier and their guests. When a guest enters the room, the TV must at the very least match their expectations and the capabilities they use at home, if not improve on them.
SCN: Due to the pandemic, 2020 was a tough year for many in the industry. How was it for PPDS?
JK: 2020 was a challenging year for everyone, and for many, the impact of the market conditions will continue to be felt throughout 2021, too. With the various lockdowns and restrictions, it has been difficult for the market, but I’m incredibly proud of how we have responded to the conditions, and of the decisions we have made to not only support and protect our own staff, but our partners, too.
SCN: What have you done?
JK: The big thing is, we didn’t cut any staff and we didn’t put anyone on furlough. In fact, the team, both here in North America and across the globe, actually grew.
The health and safety—including mental health—of our staff was and continues to be paramount, so remote working has been in place for more than a year. Thankfully, the way the business has been set up, we are able to continue to operate with some form of normality—juggling work with family life, while communicating not just with our teams in North America but across the world. Daily video calls and constant communications with our colleagues, partners, and R&D teams have allowed us to respond to the conditions, to continue to innovate and create solutions relevant to this very unprecedented and unforeseen environment.
The market changed, customer needs changed, so we had to change, too … and fast! 2020 really showed what we were capable of as a business, and proved that our focus is fully on supporting our customers and being proactive about providing them with solutions as and when they need them most.
SCN: As you mentioned earlier, the company recently rebranded from Philips Professional Display Solutions to PPDS. Why is that important?
JK: We’ve been moving toward this point for a while, using Philips PDS (Professional Display Solutions) and then PPDS progressively over the last couple of years. This change isn’t just about a shorter name and a fresh new look, though. It’s a mark in the ground for us, a pivot to a more total solutions strategy. We want to offer not just a piece of hardware but the whole package.
SCN: Why did you feel this was needed?
JK: The industry is evolving. Needs and demands from our partners and their customers are always changing, and we have to move with them, think a few steps ahead to meet their needs, and offer them solutions that will support their business. To do that, we have to take an open approach by breaking the silos between hardware and software provision by encouraging full and easy integration with innovative third-party companies. This allows our customers to be truly creative with the solutions they add to our displays, and we make it our business to support them with our global trusted network of partners should they need them, while also enabling them with easy free rein development opportunities.
SCN: Could this strategy mean PPDS is moving away from Philips products?
JK: PPDS will continue to proudly hold the exclusive global rights to Philips Professional TV and Digital Signage products, software, and innovations. What we are going to do is provide solutions to our SIs to help them serve their end customers in a more efficient way.
In essence, we will be strengthening our ecosystem to better fulfill the needs of our end customers. That objective includes leading from the front around sustainability, which continues to be a subject of growing importance for businesses, and rightfully so.
SCN: Your new branding comes with a new tagline, “Powering Evolution.” Can you explain what this means?
JK: For us, evolution is a constant act, and every organization must ensure they keep pace with the world around them. That ties in with our strategy for open platform technologies, making our hardware (the display) just the beginning. With total solutions and a full display range for the B2B sector enabling audience engagement for our customers, we can help power their evolution.
Equally, we recognize the need for evolution within our sector, to support the industry as a whole through these more challenging times, and also to be more globally aware.
SCN: What else can we expect to see from PPDS in 2021?
JK: We still have some important launch plans for 2021, but we’re not quite ready to talk about them yet, so stay tuned! Our business in North America, is growing at a pace we’re comfortable with and we don’t want to risk that. The launch into hospitality was a big announcement for us last month and will of course remain a key focus for us in 2021 and beyond, but that’s not taking anything away from our focus on other key industries, namely education, retail, corporate, and broadcast. As I said, we’re growing at a pace we’re comfortable with, and one that ensures our customers always get the best service. We won’t launch into new areas if it risks compromising or diluting other areas. We’re not here to make up the numbers.
Interactive Ecosystem • In the post-COVID world, interactive displays must be versatile, IoT-ready, and supremely easy to use. But that’s just the beginning.