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Is Convergence Finally Upon Us? Print E-mail
Monday, 01 January 2007
Article Index
Is Convergence Finally Upon Us?
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Why The AV Industry Needs To Pay Even More Attention To Convergence
Slowly, the independent stereo shop is going away. The once mighty SoundEx in Philadelphia recently closed its doors after 30-plus years as a retail leader in high-end audio; they never really embraced custom installation AV until it was too late. Big retail chains like Tweeter, Ultimate Electronics, The Good Guys and Magnolia are eating up an increasing part of the market share in mid to high-end home theater. The CEDIA dealers have their niche and it is a very important one. However, the volume of sales being done in the regional and national chains is vastly larger and increasingly points toward convergence.

Industry insiders are pointing at new players like CompUSA and Best Buy as the new players in the world of consumer electronics. No two players get convergence more than these two behemoths. Best Buy ate up the upper-mid-fi chain Magnolia and now is integrating their higher-end, more custom approach right inside of Best Buy’s super stores. CompUSA might be the biggest new player in the market after buying up West Coast chain The Good Guys. Rumors persist that CompUSA isn’t done and might have Tweeter and Ultimate on its takeover list.

These potential takeovers and the increasing trend of mega-stores killing off weaker, independent audiophile stores may be powered by the rise in computer products. For example, HP makes a media center that brings many of the features of a PC to a more component style unit. Other more esoteric companies are integrating high power processing from a PC and using it for audio processing, video processing, video recording and much more. Imagine a day when Apple comes out with a home theater in a box that actually looks like it belongs in a high-profile home and prices it at $3,000 – they are already set up with nearly 200 retail stores to sell them by the millions. That reminds me – I think I need to call my stock broker.

Convergence is a truly broad topic that in the day to day workings of the audio/video industry sometimes gets glossed over. Make no mistake, convergence is absolutely upon us, despite its developmental infancy. We are no more than a few years away from complete home theater systems that connect via one cable (think HDMI) as if it were an iMac. Through a connection to the Internet and thanks to a company set-up “wizard,” any consumer will be able to program a large-scale, touch-screen remote for an entire screen by answering an onscreen prompt less confusing than an Ohio election ballot.

The idea of increased performance drives the audio/video industry and likely will do so forever. However, the plague of unreliable and poorly upgradeable components stands to benefit from convergence. The lesson of the rise of the iPod and the MP3 teaches us that convenience is an important element of our converging systems.

The audio/video industry is changing in ways never seen before. While it is important to support the companies who are leading edge in terms of ultimate performance for the dollar, thanks to convergence, you can also demand increased connectivity, better upgradeability and much, much more.

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