Professional audio vendors are poised to profit from movements in the corporate meeting room sector, as budget share creeps away from display technologies. That's the message from 2,500 interviews carried out by Futuresource Consulting during a recent corporate end user research project.
Covering the UK, USA, Germany and France, the comprehensive Futuresource study reveals the rising importance of audio products such as commercial speakers and high-quality microphones in the meeting room ecosystem.
"Alongside collaboration devices and room control products, audio continues to make its presence felt," says Chris McIntyre-Brown, Associate Director at Futuresource Consulting, "And with almost 11 million meeting rooms across Western Europe and North America, there's a handsome reward for audio vendors who act on the opportunity. There's a particular sweet spot in the USA, where 28% of AV hardware budgets for large meeting rooms are being invested in audio."
Drilling into the sub-segments, speakers have seen strong growth over recent years, as multi-location conferencing from huddle spaces and meeting rooms has increased. Although a significant proportion of speakers are consumer grade, there is a growing demand for professional grade ceiling and column speakers as meeting room sizes and budgets continue to increase.
"Our research shows that corporate speakers tend to be installed as complete systems, generally as part of a new office build, refurb or systems overhaul," adds McIntyre-Brown. "Moreover, a key take-home for vendors is that the corporate vertical typically demands higher quality products when compared with other installed commercial verticals, such as retail and education."
As professional speakers begin to gain a foothold in the corporate space, the same is true for microphones.
"Corporations are becoming more attuned to the importance of high quality audio when making conference calls," comments McIntyre-Brown, "Which is helping to grow demand for dedicated microphones. We're seeing a range of form factors gradually sliding into the mix, particularly in medium and large sized meeting rooms, where extender mics are being used in tandem with conferencing phones.
"Professional microphones are subject to some key regional differences, far more than any other product segment covered in our report. The strongly contrasting European and North American meeting room environments are creating two different markets, with their own form factor preferences. Either way, there's still plenty of growth left in the market, with respondents telling us penetration rates are still down in the single figures."
As corporates continue to demand integrated conferencing facilities in their meeting rooms, global audio solutions provider, Plantronics, announced in March that it will acquire Polycom (a leading in-room video conferencing provider) in a deal valued at $2 billion USD. This acquisition offers major opportunities for both companies and signals even greater competition in the voice and video collaboration sector. Watch this space for a range of new challenges and opportunities for many vendors and integrators operating across the breadth of the corporate audio and video landscape.
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