The Dual Path


Even on an ever-changing landscape, where major manufacturers continually jockey for position, Barco's recent acquisition of Folsom Research is worthy of examination. The creation of what is now called Barco Folsom LLC, after all, gives one of the main warriors in the projector wars instant and major penetration into the image-processing universe — called “beyond display functionality” by Barco Folsom general manager Mike Jones.

Jones suggests the new company is positioned to deepen Barco's already considerable overall service to the rental-and-staging market.

“For one thing, we can provide integrated system-level solutions for customers, and we can give them one-stop shopping — integrated systems,” says Jones. “By having a company that combines display and beyond display capabilities, with a common interface between the various products and configurations, customers will have options to mix-and-match systems for optimal results, all from one place. Image processing has been a specialized part of the market for a long time, and Barco now has that specialized expertise under its roof. Our view is that rental companies will benefit from this combination.”

Even many Barco competitors agree with this notion and some are, themselves, searching for similar synergies. Gary Fuller, Christie's global product manager for rental and staging, for instance, calls Barco's acquisition of Folsom “a good move. They acquire a well-established company that has market penetration already. With Barco's reach, they can get Folsom's technology and applications into markets that Folsom previously couldn't penetrate. It just makes sense to go in this kind of a direction. Christie, and I expect, others will be seeking different kinds of alliances going forward, I'm sure.”

But what about the products themselves? Will such maneuvering allow soup-to-nuts projectors with built-in image processing to take over the market any time soon? Fuller suggests manufacturers such as Christie and Barco are pursuing that path generally, but not exclusively.

“It's a dual path pretty much,” he says. “One path is to put as much image-processing power directly into the projector itself, to make it as powerful as possible. This is especially popular with low-end to mid-level projectors. At the same time, the other path is to move all processing off the projector itself and make the projector more of a head with external boxes providing all the processing. It's application-specific in terms of which approach is better. For high-end applications, with external systems like (Vista's) Montage available and so powerful, it would be pretty difficult to pack a projector with that same kind of processing power and capabilities. We (Christie) are pursuing both tracks, and so are most people.”

Barco's Jones was unable, at press time, to detail what kind of new products might flow in the near future from Barco Folsom LLC, but he did say the company is already diving deep into development with Barco engineers on “anything and everything” related to Barco's events-related business. For now, he added, there is “no intention to limit the availability of Folsom's current products or open architecture, since doing so would limit how many customers we could support, and we don't want to do that. The point, though, will be to offer customers one entity across the whole spectrum of display and beyond-display products, and that is our future with Barco.”