Report from Las Vegas: More of the Same.
This week we have a guest blogger: John Curran, CEO of mCosm, our affiliate company.
Aside from Intel, there weren't many new, big-name vendors at the Digital Signage Expo (DSE) in Las Vegas last month. A few vendors had smaller booths this year than last, or had disappeared altogether. LCDs weren't much different from 2009, and many booths looked like the TV aisle at Best Buy. Most PC-player-based software had identical features and functions, the only difference being the interfaces. And it was difficult to learn much technical detail, because most sales reps delivered canned demos that gave only a 30,000-feet overview.
I imagined some poor attendee (maybe it was you) visiting DSE in hopes of finding the best solution for his or her company's digital-signage needs. It wasn't a pretty picture. There were only disconnected elements of solutions, from vendors that all looked the same, their prices included. Hardware options varied widely, including store servers with line extenders and LCD TVs, low-end players, high-end players, PC players with LCD monitors, all-in-one digital systems, video walls, etc. Add mounting and cabling, and the whole hardware side started to resemble a high-school science project.
Software options for digital-signage management were even more confusing. The choice came down to broadcast versus narrowcast, influenced by whether you needed to update information hourly, daily or just a couple of times a month. You also needed to know how the software would integrate with your graphics-production workflow, what file formats and fonts to support, and how much training was required to run the network. Finally, you had to know how a software choice would affect the hardware required for deployment. Whatever the solution, it was expensive to buy and operate.
Even worse was this question: How would you know whether a particular solution would meet your needs over the next four or five years? Only a handful of vendors at DSE probably could be helpful here, especially digital-screen and player vendors affiliated with technology providers. But this involves more of a channel strategy than integrated solutions for a vertical market.
Despite all these issues, digital signage is a growing market, predicted to reach $4.5 billion in 2013. For that to happen, however, users must find the technology easier to evaluate, buy, deploy and operate. This will occur only through market consolidation that provides users with one-stop shopping for digital signage from viable vendors. Maybe we'll see progress at DSE 2011.