InfoComm AV Industry Timeline

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AV Industry Timeline

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The AV industry has evolved since its beginning, as new technologies and new business models have been developed.  Within the last twenty years the changes have been profound:
 
The 1970s - Catalogs for K-12 Make Way for Corporate Video

Until the 1970’s the industry focused on the K-12 school market and sold AV products through catalogs, including film projectors, microphones, overhead projection, slide projection, and other school supplies. Videotape recorders and playback ushered in a new product category in the ‘70’s and with it more corporate, education, and cable TV buyers who were developing video production studios.

The 1980s - The Computer Revolution and the Birth of Data Projection and Themed Events

With the invention of the microcomputer, the AV industry saw a large increase in the software market for schools.  In the mid and late ‘80’s the first electronic data projection systems were introduced. Except for video production systems and large venue audio, the industry was primarily based on transactional sales. Rental and staging companies prospered in the ‘80s with the growth of the presentation market and themed events.  The combination of the rental of technologies for meetings with staging for entertainment and business events proved to be a good mix of services.  In the ‘90s this profitability was changed when the drop in the purchase price of AV products resulted in a reduction in rental fees.  In the early 2000’s staging took on a more prominent role as customers were looking for more sophisticated and entertainment-oriented programs.
 
The 1990s - Presentations, Fixed Installation Rise, Audio Improves

The presentation market boomed, as large and small electronic projectors became part of corporate, higher education, association and other presentations.  creens, audio, and other equipment were configured for rental and install markets.  The installation market became more systems-oriented with control systems, connections to networks, videoconferencing, interactive technologies, and other products being integrated into highly automated presentation rooms.

The 1990s also reflected the increasing importance of audio, driven by audiences' demand for CD-quality sound in all application environments from classrooms to boardrooms.
 
The New Millennium - 2000 and Beyond - AV-IT Convergence

By the close of the ’90s, the Internet and IP networks began playing a large role in the technology base of the industry.  Technologies are being connected to other locations, and the equipment within the room has changed from traditional analog systems to digital systems running over IP networks. In the early years of the 21st century, some of the products of the industry have moved closer to the retail distribution chain.  Small LCD and DLP projectors have joined overhead projectors and other display devices being sold in office equipment and computer stores.  “Plug and play” technologies have developed to the point at which some in the industry predict the advent of “boardrooms in a box.”
 
By 2005, the distinction between commercial and residential AV had been blurred with companies
representing each domain working in both markets. InfoComm considers residential systems to be one of the vertical markets served by AV professionals.  In fact, 20% of respondents to the 2005 Market Forecast Survey reported involvement in the residential market.
 
By 2005 the AV/IT convergence, long foretold, became more of a reality with more than 80% of all AV
products either based on IT networks or capable of working on them.  It is one of the major drivers of demand for AV products.  It is also requiring AV products to become more reliable.

Technology Changes Spur Changes in Business Practices

Alongside technological and market changes, AV business practices have also evolved.  Catalog sales processes established in the 1970s diminished or were taken over by a few Internet-based “box houses.”  While at one time there was great concern expressed over the possibility that manufacturers might sell direct via the Internet, that fear was greatly diminished with the collapse of the Internet bubble in 2000/2001.
 
With the change in transactional sales, many dealers became systems integrators and began selling
engineering and installation services, as much as technology. Rental and staging has undergone a similar transformation from primarily transactional rental services to include a focus on staging services. These recent trends held true for most of the world-wide AV market. Distributors have traditionally played a much larger role outside of North America where a direct relationship with the manufacturer was not as common. Recently more manufacturers are establishing direct relationship in Europe and Asia and at the same time more products are beginning to go through distribution in North America. The shift from transactional sales to systems integration is occurring throughout the world with North American and Western Europe serving as the leading edge. Asia and other areas continue to move in that direction.