Jenny Hicks, Midwich Q&A – ‘user experience dictates product selection’

Jenny Hicks, head of technology at Midwich tells Tim Kridel there are benefits to single branded hardware ecosystems but one manufacturer rarely offers a complete solution and there’s still plenty of demand for integration skills.

TK: From what you’re seeing, are AV vendors increasingly offering full product lines of hardware, software and services? (A couple of examples of these ecosystem plays are Shure and Haivision

JH: We have seen, for a number of years now, manufacturers adding products related to their core categories to win more share of the revenue of a sale. Equally we see many releasing products in different categories when trends show high demand.  

Whilst some have managed to develop a strong portion of the ecosystem it is rare still for a brand to offer a complete end-to-end ecosystem. For example, many digital signage providers offer software, hardware, servers and content management and production services but do not have their own branded displays.  

TK: How does that trend affect integrators, consultants and distributors, both positively and negatively? For example, does it make multi-vendor interoperability less of a selling point and more of a challenge? Will integrators lose out if integration skills are not in such high demand? Or will there always be a lot of demand for multi-vendor systems?

JH: It feels that we are still a long way from single branded hardware ecosystems in some AV solutions, but there are benefits. With less brands involved a solution compatibility of products is less of a concern and should there be any difficulties there are less support teams to involve resolving them.

With services this may be less positive, whilst being able to resell services reduces pressure on an integrator it can remove the most profitable portion of a sale.  The most important thing to remember is that simplicity of procurement or easier after sales care should not compromise functionality necessary to meet the required user experience.

TK: Are distributors forced into ditching brands that compete as one of their brands expands its range?

JH: As a distributor we have successfully partnered with competing brands for years.  It is unlikely that any manufacturer would demand us changing our portfolio, equally it is rare two products are exactly like for like. The user experience request dictates product selection 95% of the time, once that is matched any remaining choice is with the end customer and the integrator.

TK: Is there anything pro AV can learn from the IT world regarding ecosystem plays and interoperability?

JH: The pro AV market is following a similar trend to the IT industry with many more plug-and-play or self-set-up solutions from our main players and a shift towards common standards in signal distribution and particularly AV over IP.  It feels that this evolution helps drive wider user adoption of audio visual across verticals.  For now, however, there is still high demand for intricate audio-visual solutions in larger spaces or complex user requirement environments which will keep our industry’s skill set essential for years to come.

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