Featured Article The Merger of IT and AV

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  By Neal Weinstock
  The coming together of IT and AV        hard to see them as other than irre-       AV world. And without the “Borg” to
may be the kind of gale-force wind        placeable.                                 worry about, who would half of the
that happens no matter what’s in front                                               other technology providers in all of IT
or back of it. On the other hand, its     Microsoft Pushing Into AV                  and AV define their strategies against?
causes may be a little easier to find        Microsoft, for example, has been           Maybe Cisco Systems. They make
than the proverbial butterfly on the      pushing its way into the AV business       routers and switches and other such
other side of the world. There’s a rea-   for more than a decade. It has owned       stuff that is hardly used in the high
sonably good chance that a relative       a special-effects tools company (Soft-     end of professional AV…yet. But they
few major companies are, in fact, lead-   image, now part of Avid Technology)        are everywhere (with roughly 70%
ing culprits. There are the chip guys     to help make Windows an OS for AV          market share) in the networking of
and the storage guys, of course. In       production; it bought into Comcast         any sort of data that is not high-end
reality, only a few companies are the     and other cable operators to get its       AV. Is there anybody in either AV or
lead actors in Moore’s Law and its        middleware into that industry; it          IT who does not expect the majority
even faster-moving corollary in stor-     bought WebTV and ran it into the           of compressed AV files and streams to
age advancement. If Moore’s com-          ground; it created embedded Win-           travel over IP devices with this
pany, Intel, and its chief competitors—   dows in a modular form that finally is     company’s name on them? Which
IBM, AMD, Motorola—were not driv-         gaining some traction for use within       means we’re all watching Cisco at-
ing chip advancements so fast, would      AV devices; it built Windows Media         tempt to divine what steps this net-
processing power have advanced to         over several years into almost cer-        working leader is taking toward doing
anywhere near what’s necessary to         tainly the finest AV streaming soft-       something special about AV.
carry AV over IT? Same goes for IBM,      ware available, and has now made              So far, it has given strong support
Maxtor, Seagate and just a few others     WM9 a SMPTE standard.                      to voice over IP (VOIP) in many prod-
in storage. In almost every area of IT/      Microsoft has, thus far, had moder-     ucts, it has announced that it will buy
AV crossover technology, in fact,         ate successes and colossal failures in     web-conferencing server and audio
there are few enough leaders that it’s    its forays into AV, but it keeps trying,   bridge software maker Lattitude Com-
                                          perhaps harder than any other com-         munications, and it has brought out a
                                          pany, to create the future merged IT-      few wide-area products such as the
                                                                                     new Fibre Channel over SONET ONS
                                                                                     15454 “Multiservice Provisioning Plat-
                                                                                     form.” Perhaps the biggest question
                                      ‘ People still need the cameras and            about Cisco and all of its IP network-
                                                                                     ing cohort is: Will Cisco simply pro-
                                      the microphones and all of that                vide commodity routers that carry AV
                                      production equipment, and they                 bits whose added technology value
                                                                                     belongs to software companies (may-
                                      need loudspeakers on the other                 be Microsoft, maybe Dolby, maybe
                                      side. I’m not so sure about old-               Avid or Apple), or will Cisco’s domi-
                                                                                     nance in networking for this genera-
                                      fashioned TV receivers….’                      tion of AV give it pricing power and
     Johann Strauss, marketing                                                       profitability similar to that wielded in
     manager, Metro-Technologies,                —Cisco’s Johann Strauss             the past by Sony, Thomson, Pana-
     Cisco Systems.                                                                  sonic, Harman, Peavey, Yamaha and

22   IT/AV Report
AV tech companies of older vintage?        for Microsoft’s Windows Digital Me-         So we got some non-obvious re-
                                           dia division. He, too, suffered through   sponses, even if our questions might
Control Systems Fit Right In               some years of “unexciting” offerings.     be painfully obvious. For instance…
  Control systems fit right in the         But, “with the release of Windows
middle of the AV to IT continuum.          Media 9,” he stated, “we were able to        IT/AV Report: What product or
Crestron and AMX have long shared          take a significant step forward in the    products represent your major strategic
dominance in the control of AV sys-        quality of AV experience that we could    push into IT/AV integration?
tems, but the convergence of AV and        offer. We were able to offer HD and          Strauss: It’s the ONS 15454. People
IT would seem to suddenly put them         surround sound. That really let us        have been searching for better ways
in competition with the likes of           take a huge step forward with regard      to transport Fibre Channel over the
Microsoft, Philips and Sony. Crestron,     to the whole AV ecosystem.”               WAN. The old way is dark fiber. You
for one, is rushing to bring out IT           Johann Strauss is marketing man-       use DWDM [dense wavelength divi-
products such as the CEDIA “Best           ager for Metro-Technologies for Cisco     sion multiplexing] but that may not be
Audio Product” winner C2N-DAP8RC,          Systems in Europe. Cisco has              available where you need to go, and
which provides Dolby Digital and DTS       achieved little thus far in carrying      it has a major drawback: Fibre Chan-
surround-sound distribution around a       high-quality audio and video in its US    nel times out at 17 kilometers, so you
home on Cat5 wiring. But once we’re        homeland, but Strauss’s group has         can’t get true long-distance transport.
all distributing AV over IP and            made great strides in delivering sys-     So with this product, it terminates the
Ethernet links, and telling the signal     tems that do this in Europe. Why is       Fibre Channel and converts the data
where to go from a screen within Win-      it happening first outside the US? That   to SDH [synchronous digital hierar-
dows, is there a place for control spe-    little dot.com and telecom collapse we    chy] or SONET [synchronous optical
cialists? Or do the specialists wind up    had here, for one.                        network]. Those are in very wide use
owning that control screen, because           “Our products here started out as      at telecoms throughout the world
they got there first and understand        something for studios to use to send      [SDH in Europe and SONET in the
better than anyone how to configure        AV files to collaborators or to net-      US and several other countries].
AV systems?                                works, a very American idea. Video
  We spoke to leaders in our space at      transport for studios. But the custom-       IT/AV Report: The point of convert-
each of these companies about the          ers all started out in Europe. There      ing Fibre Channel is to allow some-
challenges they see going forward in       are many places outside the States        body’s SAN (storage-area network) to
IT/AV integration. Fred Bargetzi be-       where people have fewer choices for       go remote? So a TV network origina-
gan working at Crestron 13 years ago,      getting video transport, and they have    tion at some sports stadiums or concert
and is now vice president of technol-      network deregulation,” said Strauss.      halls could have editors and graphics-
ogy: “I came to this work after four       “In some places, such as Milan, they      makers collaborating in real-time on
years of engineering school, and ‘I’m      have access to the Socrates network,      the same video with their counterparts
controlling slide projectors?’ It really   which is a high-speed metropolitan        in New York or Los Angeles?
wasn’t very exciting,” he admitted.        Ethernet network built by the local          Strauss: Exactly. That was, in fact,
But, “that changed about six years         government. Many places are kind of       the inspiration behind the product.
ago. We started to switch everything       where the US was 10 years ago and         People use SANs throughout AV pro-
over to IT-based controls.”                maybe they don’t need to make some        duction as well as in all kinds of busi-
  Jason Reindorp is group manager          of your mistakes.”                        nesses, but the need to collaborate
                                                                                     with another SAN over long distances
                                                                                     seems much more acute in film, video
                                                                                     and audio. Not just in TV production,
                                                                                     but within all kinds of companies and
                                                                                     education and government, too. It’s
                                                                                     because these media are so time-sen-
                                        ‘We had the choice to make years
                                                                                     sitive. They’re real-time.
                                        ago: Do we fight the PC or embrace
                                                                                       IT/AV Report: As more audio and
                                        it? We embraced it, but we do
                                                                                     video runs over the typical enterprise’s
                                        things they don’t want to do.                network, there would be more need for
                                                                                     this product?
                                        Crestron is running Bill Gates’
                                                                                       Strauss: Yes. We start with televi-
                                        house!’                                      sion and grow from there.

     Fred Bargetzi, vice president of                                                  IT/AV Report: Why Fibre Channel
     technology,Crestron Electronics.             —Crestron’s Fred Bargetzi          over SONET rather than IP?

24    IT/AV Report
  Strauss: I would rather go with Fi-       Crestron might define its key IT/AV        duced our P4 Universal Presentation
bre Channel over IP. You would just         product, it sure seems like the kind of    System, which uses XP Em-
need to put a little “storage router”       thing we’ll see wrapped into Windows       bedded….We had the choice to make
onto your SAN and then you’d be in-         in the near future to control the evolv-   years ago: Do we fight the PC or em-
dependent from any SONET provi-             ing digital media network. Is this fair?   brace it? We embraced it, but we do
sioning. But IP networks are not ev-           Bargetzi: Our control systems have      things they don’t want to do. Crestron
erywhere. We are selling this product       gotten cheaper than a PC. Our sys-         is running Bill Gates’ house!
to the telecoms, which mostly already       tems run our own real-time operating
have SONET networks, so they can go         system. Not Windows, not Unix. It will     New Applications?
to broadcasters and concert facilities      never be as efficient to do what we do        IT/AV Report: Are IT-based AV so-
and so on and sell them a service.          from within Windows; we thought            lutions largely going into new applica-
                                            about going that route. You know, you      tions, or into the existing AV apps we
                                            can take a PC and turn it into a router,   have today?
Microsoft’s Defining                        and it does a fine job. But you can go        Reindorp: It’s both, really. It’s prob-
IT/AV Product                               out and buy a Cisco or a 3Com router       ably a lot easier to come up with bet-
   IT/AV Report: To Microsoft now:          and it will be much more efficient and     ter technology for an existing app than
What’s your defining IT/AV product?         less expensive.                            to convince a market to buy into a
   Reindorp: One of the biggest                I agree that the home network is a      whole new opportunity. But the home
things to happen here recently is the       huge opportunity; we get about a third     media network really is something
launch of the Media Center PC, a per-       of our revenues from home systems          pretty new. That’s the big new app.
fect hybrid experience of AV and            now, with two thirds from commercial.         Bargetzi: The big change for us was
IT….We think we’re doing some very          If you combine the fact that our boxes     a few years ago when people started
good things with Windows Media 9,           are less expensive than a PC, we give      using PowerPoint for everything.
and we have some excellent opportu-         away the software and we provide 24/       They’d start to bring in a laptop and
nities completely aside from the Win-       7 support…but we embrace the PC            expect to connect it to any room’s dis-
dows consumer experience. Digital           world…At InfoComm 2003, we intro-          play system. Then the LCD projectors
cinema is one of those: the prospect
of being able to distribute movies on
CDs and DVDs instead of film. It’s a
huge shift in terms of the way prod-
uct is distributed.
   I don’t think any one company is
ready to make that jump in the US.
Our trials in Europe have been more
in line with recognizing the benefits of
digital cinema for other than the typi-
cal movie experience here. In Paris,
you know, there are tons of tiny, tiny
cinemas—really       just    projection
rooms—all around the city. If we can
help the economics of independent
film distribution to small rooms like
that, that’s a beginning for what we
can do in AV distribution in the kinds
of halls and rooms your readers build.
   Also, one of our apps is an advertis-
ing company in Tokyo that has exten-
sive store-based screening systems
around Japan. So we’re working on
these things that are really fun and
exciting but, ultimately, yes, it’s about
supporting the Windows experience.
We want a lot of media in this format
so people can access it at home. Our
goal is to help sell Windows.

  IT/AV Report: As we look at how

                                                                                                                    Winter    25
got much more affordable. Where pre-         once. In Italy, there is no cable TV,      analog TV broadcasting and film dis-
viously a company may have had two           and property owners are not happy          tribution in cinemas? For a long time,
conference rooms, now they wanted to         with all the satellite receivers. So       yeah. But eventually not….In our
control 15 or 20 rooms—even 50               they’ve grown rapidly. In Milan, in 18     work in the movie industry, in music,
rooms in a facility—still with a staff of    months they have 150,000 subscrib-         it’s clear the digital transition is hap-
two. Management of the AV entity             ers. They’re getting 80% of their rev-     pening. People are concerned about a
really became impossible by the time         enues from addressing SoHos [Small         loss of revenue, but digital distribution
we introduced our first Ethernet-            office/home office]. Also in Naples,       actually can mean more revenue.
based system five years ago.                 Turin and Rome they have 400,000           People are concerned about signal
   For home networking, you really           subs now.                                  security. The ability to DRM [digital-
couldn’t make something there that             And we have seen similar things in       rights management] material in the
would have a wide market in the av-          the Dubai Internet City and in an in-      concert hall or the cinema actually
erage person’s home without the new          stallation with Lyse [a small telecom      makes it much more secure than it is
technology. In the home, we make the         company) in Norway. These new met-         in the analog world.
PAC2, or “pro auto controller 2.” It         ropolitan high-speed systems have
mounts on the wall, and you plug in          turned out to be our market.                 IT/AV Report: Some of our readers
security, HVAC, lighting systems.                                                       are probably concerned about installing
   Strauss: For us, we’ve clearly seen         IT/AV Report: So will there con-         a system with one vendor’s DRM and
new services evolve. The original idea       tinue to be a place for AV standing        then the customer finding out that the
of Fibre Channel over SONET was to           aside from IT?                             required content is owned by some other
allow the telecoms to offer a new ser-         Strauss: People still need the cam-      media company that wants its own
vice, but it would be a service that en-     eras and the microphones and all of        DRM installed, requiring expensive
abled something TV companies are al-         that production equipment, and they        equipment to be changed or added.
ready doing. They already have live          need loudspeakers on the other side.       Given that the lessons of pay TV seem
remotes, they’re already collaborating       I’m not so sure about old-fashioned        to point to every major content owner
over long distances, they’re just renting    television receivers in the long run.      wanting to control the locks on its own
a satellite for a lot more money or          Storage and transport get replaced.        property, can we at least be sure we’re
they’re less efficient than they could be.     Bargetzi: Most of the media people       building systems that will allow a
   But we were surprised to find our         use today is still not streaming over      simple code download to protect
customers came from different places         a network. It’s starting, but it’s still   anybody’s licensed material?
than that. Actually, Cablecom in Swit-       mostly traditional media. Digital is         Reindorp: The DRM technology
zerland is offering a service like that.     coming along, but there will still be      we’ve developed has been out there
But our first big customer was               legacy devices; they’re not going to       for years, and is broadly accepted:
FastWeb in Italy. They’re providing          disappear overnight. Our job is to har-    somewhere in the tens of millions of
Ethernet over optical. They do               ness those legacy signals and devices      secure transactions. We work closely
10Mbps to the home, and they provide         to the new, so people can get the sig-     with studios and record labels to make
85 video channels over that, video on        nal they want to the device they want      sure it is compatible with their needs.
demand, pay TV, and internet and             easily, control it all logically. That’s   Also, because our technology is so
voice. They only address the customer        really a huge opportunity both for us      broadly accepted, the default tends to
                                             and for the systems contracting busi-      be Windows DRM. There are oth-
                                             ness as a whole.                           ers—and yes, that’s a good thing for
                                               Reindorp: Will there continue to be      our partners; competition is good. If
                                                                                        Sony develops its own proprietary
                                                                                        DRM, the first thing they’d want to
                                                                                        assure is, “would it work with
                                         ‘With the release of Windows
                                         Media 9, we were able to take a                  IT/AV Report: In those new appli-
                                                                                        cation areas, though, do AV technology
                                         significant step forward in the                companies continue to exist alongside
                                         quality of AV experience that we               companies starting on the IT side, or
                                                                                        will IT swallow up AV functions there?
                                         could offer.’                                    Strauss: The service providers re-
                                                                                        main, although maybe they are new
     Jason Reindorp, group manager,           —Microsoft’s Jason Reindorp               ones that are more efficient because
     Microsoft’s Windows Digital                                                        of the new transport technology they
     Media division.                                                                                       (continued on page 19)

26    IT/AV Report
  However, the advantages of conver-        standardized implementation, and            Conclusion
gence from an integration point-of-         many others are part of the reason IT         IT/AV convergence is a work in
view cannot be overlooked. The effi-        and AV are converging. Savvy audiovi-       progress. It has been only recently
ciencies of cable-pulling by one cabling    sual integrators have noticed this trend    that most of the concepts explored
contractor, system monitoring and           for some time, and have even entered        here were even possible, and less re-
maintenance, quantity pricing of cable      the IT integration field with an eye to-    cently that they were reliable enough
and connectors, skilled IT workforce,       ward specialized IT/AV projects. The        to recommend. When it is considered
                                            ready access to training from the IT        that the ultimate purpose of an IT or
                                            side allows AV integrators to become        AV system is to deliver information to
ROUNDTABLE                                  proficient in this work. Likewise, IT in-   an end-user on a screen and to speak-
 (Continued from page 25)                   tegrators have added audiovisual skills     ers, whether large or small, it be-
use. Maybe they are the old ones that       to their capabilities, taking advantage     comes evident that the two fields are
upgrade.                                    of professional training from the audio-    forever intertwined. The “con” job is
   Bargetzi: Especially in the home,        visual “world.”                             what makes it all possible.
people won’t want to run everything
from a PC, and they don’t want to re-
place their TVs, lighting systems and
all those other systems until they have
to. It doesn’t happen all at once, so
there’s a big opportunity here and it’s
going to continue to involve control of
legacy equipment. We only make 15
control systems. We make 600 other
peripheral products. That’s our
strength. One little $600 brain that can
support $30,000 in other products go-
ing into an installation is just one com-
ponent of the system. It’s not just a big
opportunity for us; a lot of people are
getting into control. Last year at
CEDIA, there had to be 15 companies
doing control systems. Most of the ac-
tion involves all those peripheral de-
vices you have to supply….It’s up to us
to come up with a better system than
Windows XP Media Center, and I think
we’ll continue to be able to do that.
   Reindorp: A great deal of the op-
portunity for Windows Media and for
Windows is in the embedded applica-
tions. We think that’s a huge part of
the potential growth path for Win-
dows, because the hardware compa-
nies know they need to advance from
their current equipment generations
to devices that play these new forms
of media and that work within the
home or enterprise network. We’re
not going to be making that hardware
and it isn’t going to be made by PC
companies either, for the most part.
We want to partner with those elec-
tronics companies as we do with the
PC guys, and in some new and inno-
vative ways, too. No, they won’t go
away. We’re on this road together.

                                                                                                                   Winter   19