On Friday 21st December 2007 we posted our list of Top 10 Digital Signage Vendors…
In that first post we detailed the (obvious) folks who never made our ‘cut’. Now it’s time to look in a bit more detail at those in the top 10 and more importantly why they are there.
First of all, let’s look briefly at our joint number 1’s; Cisco and EnQii.
Cisco is well known of course as the worldwide leader in networking technology but just over a year ago they purchased a 10 man digital signage software outfit called Tivella and so entered the already crowded digital signage market.
EnQii/Digital View Media (as they still prefer to be called at the moment) emerged from a number of acquisitions and is probably much, much more of a fully integrated solutions provider than a pure play software vendor but the ‘Digital View Media’ part of the organisation if you like has a great software offering.
We ranked both of these organisations as equal number 1 due to a number of different reasons. In no particular order, both are global operations. Cisco is so obviously global, with operations in almost every country you care to think of. EnQii, unlike many other solution providers are also incredibly global for such a young company with offices in London, New York, Toronto, Hong Kong, Dubai and Melbourne.
They also both offer a device / appliance rather than a PC based solution. Whilst not the be all and end all of reasons (we do have several PC based signage solutions in our top 10) we do think that devices / appliances are a much better way forward for delivering signage solutions. We predict more and more of the larger installations in 2008 will be device based – there is also a growing trend, especially amongst retailers, to choose device based solutions (ease of management, small footprint, ‘greener’, etc.). We were going to say ‘cheaper’ but think that it is a fallacy that devices are necessarily cheaper to deploy (NOT manage – they are definitely cheaper to manage) than PCs. The Cisco DMS solution for example is not exactly cheap 😉
Another trend that we like is the Software as a Service (SaaS) ASP model much trumpeted by Broadsign (and others of course) who came in third in our top 10.
We feel that Broadsign are let down by their PC only strategy at present (we hope that will change) but that minus is somewhat mitigated by the fact that they do support both Windows and Linux. We do stress here that “Linux on a PC does not an appliance make” but it is certainly better than Windoze.
Broadsign are also let down by the number of folks they have covering Europe – a let down in fact that we can rail against for almost all the non-European vendors in the top 10 apart from the top 2 (and perhaps to some extent Scala).
Broadsign has a lot of pluses though – it has a great, modern software offering and whilst not completely in the Web 2.0 model, its focus on offering it purely via SaaS / ASP has won it some big screen networks. Interestingly the big networks it has won are the folks, especially in Europe, that we most admire too – that’s because they are networks like POSTV and Neo Advertising (now one and the same of course since the acquisition of the former by the latter) that are focused and driven – they know what their business is, where their revenues come from and what they need to concentrate on – and in nearly all but the most exceptional cases no real benefit can be gained by running your own network infrastructure and writing your own software.
Both of those networks independently chose Broadsign, and let Broadsign concentrate on what they were good at doing so they in turn could focus on what they were good at doing.
To improve, Broadsign need to think more about devices than PCs – we would like to see a product roadmap from them for the next few years, adopt more of a Web 2.0 approach to components and most importantly, come to Europe with offices and staff not just a couple of salesmen dotted around Vienna and Majorca!
There are a couple of Israeli manufacturers in our top 10 – highlighting what we have often said in presentations and research reports during 2007 that Israel and the Far East will increasingly be a source of digital signage solutions.
The first of these is C-nario. We said in our first post that most of the software we have seen in the digital signage market is pretty much the same – there is of course good and bad software but most of it does the same job in pretty much the same way. C-nario is the only company that has anything unique – the ability in real time to handle geometric and colour correction (handles curved surface projection via software on tiled and multi-walled screens etc.)
C-nario have had a lot of success with JC Decaux in the US and Clear Channel (especially with those awful Magink screens) and only narrowly missed out to TELentice on the CBS Outdoor London Underground project and also tout the O2 arena as a design win. Their biggest issue we feel is common amongst the Israeli vendors – the lack of feet on the ground in Europe and the tendency for their sales guy (yes usually only one) to fly in, meet in London, travel to Paris, visit Amsterdam and then fly out again (sometimes with the CTO).
If C-nario are serious about being a big player then they need to establish a good sized, permanent presence in Europe – probably Paris or London if they are equally serious about the (lucrative) Outdoor Media Owner’s market.
YCD are at number 5 in our list simply down to the fact that they have a fabulous music offering. Our research and presentations has highlighted the importance of being able to offer music to screen networks and it’s not simply the ability to play out a string of MP3 files!!! YCD’s music offering is we believe, the best on the market. Where YCD is let down, is again, in not having a strong employee presence in Europe and a reliance on Israel as a market for reference customers. Whilst YCD have Imagesound as a customer, they only have about 10% of their installed base using their system. YCD need a couple of bigger network partners in Europe – not simply the signing up AV installation partners. YCD are ambitious and aggressive with big plans and are very worthwhile keeping an eye on.
Screenred is the software offering, announced at ScreenExpo 2007, by John Ryan International. Previously only used by John Ryan (themselves) and only then it seems for retail banking, the launch of Screenred was their attempt to give their software (deservedly) a wider appeal.
Screenred was one of the first web only interface CMS offerings and is still probably one of the best out there but unfortunately the players run on Windows based PCs (which you know we don’t like). Screenred has failed though in its attempts to win any big business in its first year of operation. Their business development strategy has been flawed – especially in its attempts to get the right sort of channel partners on board. Their first year of operation if you like, could have been so much better. It’s a shame because even with Windows as a platform Screenred is one of the easiest to use and best performing signage solutions out there.
It may look like we are beating up on Scala at the moment, what with our criticism of the recent Frost & Sullivan report on their market share, and having them here in a lowly 7th place but far from it. If you are doing an RFP or a tender the first company you would put on your list to contact would be Scala AND rightly so!!
Scala are the old boys of the digital signage world and have an installed base and heritage second to none. We rank them lowly here for a couple of reasons; first they are adept at always appearing bigger than they are. Whilst they claim a huge European presence and we admit that they are larger than all but the top 2 in our list with staff, we reckon they probably only have a dozen folks at the most covering a huge region.
Scala often shout about their 20 years in the business. With that fact though, they should be at least 10 years ahead of everyone else so it is a shame, having already done one migration from Commodore Amiga to PC that they are still only run on a Windows PC platform today.
One thing to say about all the software that runs on Windows is any vendor’s claim (Scala included) that says their signage solution is 24 /7, robust, resilient etc etc. IT ISN’T, not in a million is it not!!!
If the signage solution runs on Windows then you are relying on Windows and the PC underneath it to be 24 /7, robust, resilient etc etc. BSOD says differently!
Lastly, we have never been happy that when they claim a win (usually with a fantastic press release to go with it) if you look a bit deeper all is not what it seems. One example in 2007 was BanestoTV – sounds fantastic doesn’t it? Yep, that’s right – the large Spanish Banesto bank with its very own branch based screen network. It’s only when we look in more detail that we can find only one branch in Madrid with screens and when asking around other suppliers we are told it is a local install and not a national roll out at all.
Remotemedia, the only English company in the list, in at number 8. These guys are small, but are honest about it and are really, really punching above their weight. With a particular focus on retail and a SaaS / ASP and Windows CE based offering they are doing deals in the US and looking at franchising elsewhere. They have won numerous awards (not we feel for their best work either) and can lay claim to some incredibly prestigious networks.
Their SignageLive offering as they call it has a great web site, has great reviews and fits the Web 2.0 and component model we like so much perfectly.
TELentice lost its only European sales guy to Broadsign a month or so ago but they did win the CBS Outdoor London Underground business against incredibly stiff opposition. These guys need a European presence and some serious marketing but you cannot doubt the efficiency of CBS Outdoor (and Arqiva the deployment partners in the project) with their own technical due diligence. The TELentice solution is definitely worth looking at.
Lastly, just making it into the top 10 is Stratacache. Stratacache also recently lost their own Brussels based European salesman and with it a couple of potential big deals in the emerging markets otherwise they might have been higher up the least. These guys with their huge but hidden installed base in the bowels of corporate IT organisations everywhere should be giving Cisco a run for their money (their offering is very similar to the Arrowpoint technology – the company that Cisco acquired a while back, which became the basis of Cisco’s Content Distribution strategy – a forerunner and now an integral part of their overall WAN based DMS strategy).
Stratacache need to recruit heavily in Europe and start leveraging their corporate IT contacts worldwide.