Sunday, January 15, 2012

Where does the iPad fit in the Commercial AV Market?

When the iPad came into our lives a couple years ago everyone in our industry and in the world for that matter thought that it was a game changer. Which it is, it’s changing the way everyone does business, myself included. Not only can I play Angry Birds on a 9.7” screen as opposed to 3.5” but I no longer need to take a notebook and pen with me to a job site. Everything is at my fingertips, note taking, camera, web access, e-mail, etc.
But how do we accommodate the tech savvy professor or the cutting edge executive that insists to do EVERYTHING from their iPad. There are a couple ways to do this, each one having pros and cons. You could simply buy the Apple to VGA or Apple to HDMI adaptors. These adaptors simply turn your iPad into a non-wireless flat laptop. Sure you accomplish the goal of getting your content to the display and the show goes on, but you completely lose the tablet aspect of the iPad. Another way to do this is to utilize object mirroring through an Apple TV wirelessly. This is the better solution of the two. But you have make sure the presenter is set up on the room’s wireless network. This can be an issue with some Universities and Corporations because getting through their firewalls is like getting into Fort Knox and not all apps mirror as well as others.
What about using a tablet for controlling your system? Again, there are pros and cons. Both Crestron and AMX have apps to turn your iPad into the primary point of control in your system. The pros are that the iPad is a fraction of the cost of a dedicated touch panel from either manufacturer. It also becomes more than just the control panel for your system. If your user is Apple savvy then they can put their presentation on the cloud and access it remotely. The cons are that iPads and other tablets can “disappear” pretty easily. Unless every presenter in your corporation or university has the $100 app and the touch panel code loaded on their tablet (which is unlikely), there will probably be a dedicated tablet in your room. If it isn’t locked up after each class or meeting it could be in someone else’s hands. Oh and I almost forgot, don’t forget to charge it. Even though they have substantial battery lives, you better believe that when it comes around to your presentation that the previous user forgot to plug it in. Also, if for some reason you back out of the app or become disconnected it can take several seconds for the device to reconnect. That time that you are left in limbo waiting for it to connect can feel like a lifetime while standing in front of a class or a meeting.
When push comes to shove, the iPad is a great accessory to our systems. But I don’t think that it can completely replace anything right now. When used properly in either of the two scenarios I talked about, they can be impressive and borderline amazing. The problem is that not everyone knows how to properly use them. There are more and more apps coming out that broaden the use of these in the AV world every day. The trick is to see if they can be used in our commercial environment effectively. That’s what Dobil is here for.