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For Big Crowd, Bigger Issues At CEDIA Expo

Indianapolis -- The close-knit CEDIA community will grow even closer at next month's Expo.

CEDIA (the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association) will host more exhibitors in less space at this year's Sept. 6-10 event in Indianapolis, where attendance is projected to hit 14,000 to 16,000 compared to last year's record 13,500.

Showgoers at this year's event will find a greater emphasis on home networking on the show floor and in educational seminars.

First-time exhibitors, including Microsoft and Yamaha, will help swell the event's exhibitor count to 351 from last year's 338, and the number could have gone higher were it not for a reduction in exhibit space to 300,000 gross square feet from last year's 330,000. A Sept. 10 football game is pushing exhibitors out of the attached RCA Dome, which was used last year as exhibit space, into a newly constructed hall in the Indiana Convention Center.

For next year's event, CEDIA has committed to 390,000 square feet, even though the association last year said it would cap exhibit space at 330,000 square feet during the event's three-year run in Indianapolis.

"I was a proponent of holding onto the sense of community that has been a historic part of CEDIA," said Expo chairman Jeff Kussard. "We'll do everything to maintain a sense of community, but the community continues to grow." Capping the total amount of floor space to 330,000 square feet, however, is like "trying to hold back tidewaters."

One way for CEDIA to maintain its sense of community is to "maintain some common sense in the amount of floor space taken by individual vendors," he noted. "Big companies often fall into a self-perpetuating competition mode" to erect bigger displays than the competition, "then when they realize the costs are getting out of hand, they grumble and rethink the value of the show."

A limit on the size of individual booths would also give more vendors a greater chance of participating, Kussard said. The association, nonetheless, is "still wrestling" with the issue of capping booth size.

Despite space constraints, the CEDIA Expo community has expanded to 351 exhibitors, 68 of which are either exhibiting for the first time or returning after an absence of a year or more.

Many of the 68 are audio and video suppliers, but a growing number are suppliers of business-support services, reflecting the industry's growth and maturity, said Kussard, who explained that "more vendors are designing software tools for our business."

Many new and returning exhibitors will contribute to "an enormous amount" of space devoted to networking and structured wiring, added Frank White, chairman of CEDIA's manufacturers' council.

Home networking's presence will get a big boost from Microsoft, which will erect a home-networking pavilion and send Jon DeVaan, senior VP of its consumer group, to deliver a keynote speech on the topic.

Home networking will also figure more prominently in the Expo's educational program, which has been expanded to 108 courses from last year's 92, said Kussard. The Expo's first-ever home-network track will add residential gateway design, wireless home networking and Home Audio-Video Interoperability (HAVi) technology to the list of home-network topics offered last year.

Another new topic will be PC-centric networking "to create more of a focus on a perhaps heretofore overlooked aspect of home networking," he added.

Expanding an initiative begun last year, CEDIA will "considerably" increase the number of classes devoted to management topics, Kussard said. Almost 45 percent of the classes will focus on management topics in one of four tracks, including business management, personal management skills, and marketing strategies.

"Last year, we increased the focus on the business side, but it [the educational program] still largely had a technical focus," the show chairman said. "This year, we struck a balance of technical vs. business-related offerings."

Upgrading the business skills of the installation community is critical, said Kussard, "because so many installers started out as smaller entrepreneurial companies that grew out of the specialist A/V community. The market has moved at an extremely fast pace, and they may not have had time to develop their business acumen."

Besides technical classes, the Expo's technical-education efforts will include Level I and II installer-certification testing and the third annual CEDIA Boot Camp - a two-day series of lectures, hands-on workshops and tests intended to train newcomers in basic installation procedures and techniques.

CEDIA will also reprise its "Garden of High Definition Delights," where about 40 digital TVs will be demonstrated for comparison purposes. A touch panel connected to each TV will let showgoers switch among three high-def sources: a CBS network feed, an over-the-air signal from a local NBC affiliate, and HBO programming via DirecTV.

Attendees will also find:

  • · More audio suppliers entering the video-display market. They include Nakamichi and Yamaha.

  • · DVD-Audio/Video players from such companies and Kenwood and Toshiba.

  • · More 6.1-channel receivers, including new models from Yamaha.

  • · More products incorporating MP3 decoders, including a dual-well CD-recorder from NAD and receivers, a DVD changer, and a dual-well CD-recorder from Harman Kardon.

  • · At least one more supplier, NAD, offering a 4x-speed CD-recorder, joining models from Harman Kardon.

  • · More hard-drive-based audio servers, including one from newcomer Imerge America of Waltham, Mass.

  • · At least one new multitransport CD changer with multiroom capability. A three-disc changer with three separate drives, one capable of playing DVDs and CDs, will be part of a new Nakamichi home theater electronics/speaker system.

 

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