For the past 3 months we have been looking in some detail at the various Digital Signage vendors – the folks doing the hardware, software and content management systems in the digital out of home space and we have put together our top 10, as below, based on various criteria detailed later in this post…
To be fair we have concentrated on Europe, Middle East and Africa and so those vendors that are predominantly US focused may not have fared so well. For example, Wirespring although we have recently engaged with them and have had recent sight of some of their installations in Europe, are not in our top 10 at this moment though of course they have big installations elsewhere in the world. Novra also falls foul of this (sort-of) with just one big installation in Europe courtesy of Avanti Screenmedia. Stratacache may also have been higher if they had kept their European Sales guy and not lost a couple of big contracts in Istanbul as a result also.
Over the course of the coming week we will be expanding on the post itself and will be giving some more detail on those that made the top 10 and our reasons why they did.
What we would say, which none of the vendors is really going to like is that most of the good products are actually all the same or at least very similar.
With the exception of C-nario we do not see anything unique from any vendor in the top 10 (or out of it for that matter). All the products do the same job in pretty much the same way (despite what the sales guys may say).
So, what we are looking for in vendors may NOT be what others are looking for but we feel that the following are some of the most important points when choosing a vendor and their product: –
- worldwide coverage – employees, offices, support
- a TOTAL SOLUTION not just a piece of hardware or software
- big internal development teams
- devices not PCs
- (If PC) Linux not Windows
- ASP / SaaS offering
- Solid Product Roadmap going forward (innovation)
- Financial Stability
- Proven Track Record – minimum of several 1,000+ site deployments
As you read through the Top 10 you will see quite clearly that there are a lot of established names that have not made our list. Let’s briefly look at these: –
Everyone knows 3M as an incredibly innovative company but they don’t seem to have got their act together on digital signage at all. Their rear projection system gets lots of good press but their software is pretty much unheard of. This is a company that with its contacts, its current customer base and its reputation should be everywhere and doing so much better. The fact that it isn’t on our radar screen anywhere (except for one nice deal with Telstra in Australia) should give hope to the ‘little guys’ everywhere that just cos’ a large corporate enters the market doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to ‘eat your lunch’. These guys really should be doing so much better and out of all the corporate offerings they are really the most disappointing.
Harris InfoCaster must attend every show there is (we have seen them in Athens, Singapore, Birmingham, Istanbul, Mumbai etc etc) and have a huge (almost hidden) installed customer base with the IT guys in many large corporates but we still haven’t seen them in any retail or advertising networks anywhere in EMEA. Their product is similar to that of Stratacache and Cisco’s CDN offering and is well thought of by IT network folks. For these guys to get traction in (true) Digital Signage they need to up their game and start talking to the right people (fortunately / unfortunately the IT folks are NOT making the purchasing decisions with Digital Signage at the moment)
Purchased first by Clarity and then Clarity was subsequently purchased by Planar – “Coolsign” is we feel a typical software offering from a screen manufacturer – it feels like you ought to have a software offering in your portfolio so you do, but you are then not too sure what to do with it. In 2007 they lost their European Sales guy who has still not been replaced. A common problem with a lot of the US vendors is that they have very few people on the ground in Europe and very often do not even have a physical office. Whilst Coolsign can claim the very impressive Jyske Bank installation in Denmark (it apears that Coolsign was itself chosen by IBM, the bank’s incumbent IT provider) and a couple of nice Pixel Inspirations’ installs in the UK we feel that they will struggle to win any more big business in Europe unless they beef up their presence – staff, offices, support etc.
Surely should be in the top 10? Welll what do we put in the top 10 – their Professional Business Division? Their Screen Business or some other? If you only knew which person to speak to in order to buy something from Sony they would rank so much higher up the list. There are far too many business units – often competing for the same business and it can be and is confusing. Like with Planar, software from screen manufacturers vary rarely takes centre stage. The Sony product line is adequate and no more. We think it is unlikely that the likes of Sony will innovate quickly in the digital signage software world.
Despite all their protestations these guys are still a small UK company with only a few developers (we believe a CTO + 1 contractor but they won’t confirm or deny that). They have managed a few times to punch above their weight – helped undoubtedly by the fact that the UK SubpostmasterTV / Community Channel is such a large installed base for them. Significant sized network deployments since that very early (in our nascent industry at least) install have not happened. Whilst they shout loudly and claim a number of prestigious brands as customers we do not think that their software solution is particularly engaging or unique enough (it runs on a Windows PC like many other systems) to pick up much new business going forward.
Ones to Watch
One thing to say about the Digital Signage market place is that there definitely isn’t a lack of choice – if anything there is far too much choice. There are an awful lot of average products competing for your attention.
Out of the 100’s of other products there are a couple that we think you ought to watch and again, whilst we list them here now, we will be covering them in a little bit more detail during the next week or so.
In alphabetical order: –
- Ryarc Media Systems
See part 2 of this post