The world’s largest technology distributor, Ingram Micro Inc., owners of CE distribution powerhouses AVAD and DBL Distributing, hosted a vendor expo for resellers this past week in Scottsdale, AZ, at the absolutely beautiful Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort, a AAA 5-Diamond rated property.
The theme of this year’s expo was “Plugged in to CE” and during the kick-off keynote, Ingram’s VP/GM Tom Bamrick remarked the event was “a collaboration and partnership to increase business and relationships.”
Also on hand were some heavy-hitting representatives from CEA, including CEO, Gary Shapiro, and senior research analyst, Chris Ely, that both shared interesting insights into the future of this CE industry including top planned CE purchases for 2013 (spoiler: it’s headphones).
The expo drew 450 attendees and featured more than 135 different vendors, including Samsung, OmniMount/Ergotron, Monster, Atlantic Technology, Sanus, Sherwood, and Microsoft, allowing west coast integrators that didn’t attend CEDIA an opportunity to check out some of the latest technologies and meet with vendor representatives to discuss business opportunities.
1.Gary Shapiro introduced the event by saying, “Our only mission is to grow the industry,” and he spoke for more than an hour on the state of the CE industry and took audience questions. (I asked him about PRIMA Cinema and what he thought the future of day-and-date streaming might be, but unfortunately he wasn’t familiar with PRIMA.)
2.Shapiro is bullish on UHD, thinking that it will be “the next big thing.” I asked him if he thought that it would just be another 3D, a technology basically foist upon the public, but he felt that 3D was always destined for difficulty citing multiple factors such as people not wanting to wear glasses, a portion of the population not being able to see the 3D effect, and others that feel ill effects from the technology. Whatever your thoughts on UHD or 4K, it is coming, so be ready for it.
3.Probably not surprising to anyone, 3D led the list of “Least Prevalent CE Products” with only a 9-percent household penetration. (And the majority of those likely people that purchased a set that just happened to have 3D as a feature.) Showing incredible room for growth in the category is the 11-percent soundbar penetration statistic. With HDTV having a 74-percent market penetration, it is clear that soundbars is a growth category that can fuel a lot of sales. For more on how to sell high-end soundbars, read this blog, coincidentally written by yours truly.
4.Every attendee was given a copy of Shapiro’s book, Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World’s Most Successful Businesses, and he and took a few moments to chat with each person and personalize copies. In mine he wrote, “To John, Thank you for shifting from golf to CE! Be a Ninja Innovator!! Gary.” Dear CE, Thank you for saving me from golf! I love you much more!! -John.
5.A new twist to the expo this year was a “speed dating” session where you were given 12 minutes with a manufacturer that you did business with or were interested in learning more about. The speed dating session took place before the expo started, and was a really nice chance to spend some uninterrupted, quiet time asking questions and getting to know more about the vendor and their products.
6.One of the coolest things I saw at the expo was from garage door manufacturer, Chamberlain. Yes, a garage door manufacturer. Why garage door companies can’t provide a discreet up/down command has boggled my mind for years. This would enable easy integration with a variety of systems to easily know the status of the door. Instead, I can’t tell you how many times have I had to get up and check to see if the door is closed to appease my wife. But with this ingenious device and free app, you can now check the status of your garage door and close it, from anywhere in the world. And sweet serendipity that I happen to have a Chamberlain garage door opener, and that they gave me the “Internet Connectivity Kit” to control my door. Installation took minutes and the system is working terrifically. This is a great add-on sales opportunity to give some real-world automation to anyone at an incredibly affordable (sub-$100) price. It’s such a cool product, I’m actually planning a full review, so stay tuned…
7.If you didn’t make it to CES, then you haven’t laid eyes on the full might and awesomeness of 8-million glorious pixels (3840 x 2160) courtesy of Samsung’s new flagship 9000 series UN85S9AF. The picture looked uh-MAY-zing, showing native 4K material that was so realistic you wanted to leap into the screen and start frolicking about. It also sits on a “Timeless” (their words) stand/frame, which is like an art easel. It includes all of the smart features you could ever want, including an ultra-fast quad core processor. But it will cost you, dearly. Those wanting to go with 85 inches of UHD awesome will need to shell out just under $40,000. Yep. Forty. Thousand. Dollars. Ka-boom! (drops mic)
8.For those unable to stomach the $40,000-ness of the 85-incher, Samsung has some more real-world offerings that are just slightly less awesome. Here is the latest flagship 8500 series plasma in a 64-inch size that produced deep, inky, oh-so-black blacks next to the 8000-series 55-inch LED. They were showing off their voice control, which has come a long way since my first CES demo.
The presenter said: “Who is your favorite actor?”
“Umm, I don’t really have a favorite actor. How about actress?”
“OK. Who is your favorite actress?”
“Who is Keira Knightley?”
“Who is Keira Knightley?!?” (Said with maximum inflection of disbelief.)
“Yeah. Never heard of her.”
“You’ve never heard of Keira Knightley?!?”
Fortunately, the Samsung TV had heard of her, searched the Web, and immediately found multiple movies available for instant viewing. The voice control is also great for interacting with the plethora of smart features built-into the set.
9.After seeing Samsung, I figured I’d check out Panasonic and do an informal 8500-series versus ZT Plasma comparison. Unfortunately, the only things that Panasonic was showing were shavers, personal groomers, microwaves, and headphones. Panasonic actually got me pretty excited about its shaver technology, touting all the green benefits and cost savings over using traditional disposable blades. So when I answered a trivia question about company’s microwave inverter technology and won a prize I was thinking, “Sweet! Gonna score an awesome shaver!” Instead, my choice was a body hair groomer, beard trimmer, blood pressure reader or pore cleanser. So, good news, Dana! Here’s your gift from the expo!
10. Ergotron brought TESS (Traveling Ergotron Solutions Showroom) and OTIS (OmniMount’s Traveling Innovations Showroom) to the expo. These “showrooms on wheels” allow users to have some hands-on experience with a variety of different mounting solutions.
11.Thankfully, it was air-conditioned inside TESS as the temps reached the high 90s. (They say it gets up to 123 in the summer, so Scottsdale was taking it easy on us. Plus, it’s a dry heat. Kind of like crawling into a pizza oven is dry. And hot…) While OTIS was heavy on TV mounting solutions, including the very cool PLAY and LIFT mounts that feature Ergotron’s Constant Force technology allowing the TV to be moved by just a single finger’s worth of pressure, TESS was stocked with ergonomic workstations. Ergotron is a strong supporter of the Just Stand initiative, trying to get people out of their chairs and stand for a more healthy work environment. TESS provided people with an opportunity to try out the standing desk idea and get a feel for it. I moved to an OmniMount standing desk several months ago and love it!
12. Above is Keith Pribyl, Milestone AV Technologies VP of consumer sales, holding up a very cool iPad mounting solution from Sanus Systems. This clear bracket snaps onto the back of an iPad and features MagFit technology that “ensures a secure connection on steel surfaces, like a refrigerator or metal cabinet.” The mount is also compatible with Apple’s Smart Cover. Sanus also provides a variety of mounting solutions, including a desk stand, under cabinet/arm and on-wall flat puck. With the iPad becoming nearly a ubiquitous control solution, this is an incredibly inexpensive way to make it into an on-wall controller that still allows easy removal for full mobility or charging.
13.Sanus has joined with TVSafety.org to help spread the word and raise awareness about the very real danger of TVs tipping over and injuring and even killing young children. From the brochure, “TV tip-overs are a growing threat. Thousands of people are injured every year from TV tip-overs. Alarmingly, most of these injuries happen to children younger than five years old.” In 2011, more than 17,000 TV instability-related injuries were reported, and a child is killed every three weeks due to a tipping TV. This is horrible, and also easily preventable. Sanus recommends wall mounting for the safest installation, but if that isn’t possible, they provide an anti-tip strap. As an industry, we should be fully supporting this.
Sanus has partnered with TVSafety.org.Casio lamp-free laser and LED hybrid projector.
14.Sadly, there were no sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads, but there was a Casio lamp-free laser and LED hybrid projector that was almost as cool. (Actually, much cooler if you are measuring in running temperature, with the projector being literally cool to the touch even after running for hours.) The hybrid design is capable of up to 4000-lumen brightness and is perfect for digital signage, boardroom, and house of worship applications. (The black levels, resolution and scaling aren’t up to home theater levels.) But considering the cost of bulb replacement, maintenance and down time, the Casio lamp-free line with full three-year or 6,000-hour warranty would be a great addition for commercial integrators.
15. Microsoft was on-hand providing hardware—keyboards, mice—product training, and this graphic really caught my eye. By using a more ergonomic keyboard and mouse, workers are more comfortable, more productive, and safer in the long run. It prompted me to order a new keyboard and mouse for my office computer where I spend much time entering job worksheets and handling billing and payables.
16.One of my most memorable non-TV-related announcements from CES was the new Xperia Z cell phone from Sony. (At the show, they continually referred to it as “Xperia Zed,” so when I asked the Sony girl if they had the Xperia Zed she said, “Are you from Canada? Here we just say ‘Xperia Z.’”) Sony incorporated a ton of camera tech in this phone and the result is a phone that takes sick pictures in all kinds of lighting conditions that rivals many standalone digital cameras. The phone is also incredibly sexy looking and waterproof, able to stay in 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes.
17.The bass output from Atlantic Technologies’ patented H-PAS-enabled PowerBar 235 sound bar is truly massive. With just two 4-inch woofers, it plays down to a pretty amazing 47 Hz, making a subwoofer truly optional for most listeners. Plus it decodes Dolby Digital and DTS. I experienced this bar at CES and was looking to take it for another spin, but unfortunately, the receiver that was supposed to power this went MIA so they only had a static unit on hand.
18.This just might be the ultimate video game driving simulator. From Thrustmaster, this driving rig features four DBOX motion actuators for incredibly precise and realistic feedback. It also includes a steering wheel with tactile feedback, gas/brake/clutch and gated shifter. And it will only set you back $15,000! Why not pair this with the Samsung 85-inch and have a race party no one will ever forget?! (And, yes, I did try it. And I think I killed my virtual self crashing into a wall at 100-plus MPH.)
19. I was initially drawn to this booth because I thought they had a giant Middle Atlantic rack. Then when I saw it was a wine cooler, I was even more impressed. This is the kind of “out-of-the-box” thinking that can add dollars to an install. Many of our clients are wine buffs, and for those not willing to go for full-on eSommelier-managed cellar systems, this is a pretty slick alternative. Wine Enthusiast also offers very Riedel-esque looking stemware that is acrylic! It is great for enjoying by the pool or spa when you don’t want to risk breaking a glass.
20.Remember when Bello’Ogetti was all about awesomely cool Italian-designed audio/video furniture? Apparently they don’t either. But Bell’O was at the expo displaying its current line of TV mounts, headphones, surge protectors, and screen cleaning products.
21.Logitech was at the expo, and even though the company recently launched two new Harmony models—showing the old gal still has some life left in her—they didn’t have any love for Harmony in the booth. They are looking to sell off the revolutionary remote division and focus on keyboards, mice and tablet peripherals. Maybe Control4 would like to purchase Harmony’s massive IR database?
22.The Fairmont Princess is truly how the other half lives. And, let me assure you, they do have it better—at least those that are hanging at the Fairmont. This is the view from my room’s balcony, overlooking one of the five pools and the #4 tee at the TPC Stadium Golf Course. (When I checked in, the girl at the front desk said, “I’m going to give you the room with my favorite view on the property.”) When the show was over, I hung out on the balcony with my awesome DBL rep, Brian Whittington. Ultimately, that’s what this expo is all about; building and strengthening relationships. We drank some beers, talked about music and sports and he got to know me as a person, which also makes him better at helping my business. We all have reps like Brian, where we continue doing business with them because of the relationship that extends beyond our buying and selling product. So, thanks, Brian! I appreciate all that you do for me and my company and hope we can hang at the Princess again next year!