DSE 2013 Impressions

March 3, 2013 by Dave Haynes


I try to write a daily set of impressions from my time at DSE each year, and my first impression is that I was way too freakin’ busy to write up my impressions. I think I was in the press room twice on Day 1 and once on Day 2.

So, back at the bait shop now, a couple of actual eight hour sleeps behind me, I can stop and reflect.

First, the show does not appear to be shrinking. I wondered if a combination of consolidating vendors and the success some smart vendors are seeing at vertical market shows (like HIMSS this week in New Orleans, where Visix and Four Winds are both showing) would thin out the numbers and make the show less viable.


The show instead seems to be growing, and I know from direct experience there were some substantial Fortune 500 brands there looking for solutions and vendors.

The biggest booths used to go to the software guys, but that has shifted in a big way – with the display manufacturers in the front row and holding the largest footprints. Them and the mount guys, and Intel.

The software guys were much more oriented to the middle and sides, a function I’m guessing of budgets and reduced expectations about what one trade show can do for a company. Having done software sales (and please, please I hope I never have to again), I think any notion that one show can make or break a year for a company is kooky. DSE is part of the marketing strategy, but not THE strategy.

I actually liked the new hall, except the steps. But I gather that’s not the feeling among the DSE people – to the extent that the show is relocating to the smaller Sands Expo (behind the Venetian) next year.

I didn’t see any of the conferences and couldn’t even tell you where they were – but I assume they were up the escalators past the entry area to Elk Camp 2013 (whatever that was). I heard some grumbling, as always, about crappy speakers who got mike time for no real reason other than that’s part of the booth buy. Choosing and policing conference speakers doesn’t sound like a barrel of monkeys, as I am sure there are people who ignore promises to stay on topic and others who are on message, but just not very good at that stuff.

The people who have been going to this thing for years always have a question for each other on the floor: “Seen anything interesting?”

Usual answer: Shrug.

Like any technology, digital signage is progressively improving. But in increments, not giant leaps. The software guys can do more. The displays are brighter and slimmer. The mounts have more features. The PCs are faster. But I definitely saw very little I would call mind-blowing.

There were some great interactive applications out there, like the Sapient Nitro one for a fictional outdoors retailer, shown in the Intel corral (really, once in, it was hard to get out).

I saw some gorgeous video walls and lots of examples of how display bezels are truly at a level that they can be called near-seamless. The ugly grids are all but gone.

I fiddled with multiple touch overlays and found almost all of them lacking. If a touch screen does not respond like a tablet, don’t buy it. Millions and millions of consumers are trained to expect that level of responsiveness. You would never know it from the booth, but Touch Revolution was the company to pay real attention to. They had a little booth but are part of a monster Chinese manufacturer – TPK Group – that does the touch overlays for iPads. Millions and millions and millions of iPads. These guys had giant iPads at the booth (minus the CPUs).

I saw mercifully little in the way of gesture-driven stuff. One company that I thought would be intriguing – Cube26 – wasn’t. It was media lab stuff trying to go commercial way too soon, at least from my perspective.

There were more companies marketing audience counting with pattern detection software and cameras, somewhat oblivious to how that stuff has now been around for many years and how having Intel as a competitors makes the mountain that much higher to scale.

I already did a video blog post about Android devices. That was big takeaway #1 from the show. After I did that videro blitz, I noticed several more companies also had Android-driven products.

The other big takeaway was the potential for Samsung’s System on Chip, or SoC as they call it, technology. There is nothing overly mind-blowing about turning a commercial display panel into a GIANT tablet. It’s a tablet CPU with a very large screen. But the possibilities are big for something that can run full HD video and HTML5 and REMOVES the need for a PC in applications like digital menuboards.

Samsung is still finalizing pricing, but the intention is that the price for a panel that has SoC inside will be the same or very nominally more than a panel without it. In a QSR environment, that could remove $2K or more in hardware costs per site. A big deal.

I will have a video post up on that in the next day or so, once my Studio 10 guys sleep off Vegas and get back to the edit suite.

They are also editing a separate post on some of the small booths that many people never get to at this kind of show.

All told, a great week. Saw plenty. Renewed a bunch of friendships and made some new ones. And learned a few things.

Next up, the big ISA sign show, back in Vegas, in a few weeks. Never been. But curious. The digital signage speaker list is, sigh, the usual suspects. But I’m going to get a sense, first-hand, if the sign people are ever going to make the jump (they need to).

Hope your return home was a breeze. Now back to work!


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