The challenges of competing in a global world
The landscape is changing for smaller companies operating in the hi-fi and home cinema fields, and it’s getting ever harder for them to compete with the massive Far Eastern corporations in some key areas.
I recently had a lengthy conversation with senior staff of one British audio/video specialist company regarding the problems of developing disc players and multichannel amplification: they’ve been “working on” a Blu-ray player for a very long time, and had developed an innovative solution with another electronics firm. However, that third party hit snags, so the company in question had to opt for an off-the-shelf solution, rebuilding the product around that.
It’s not alone. Another UK-based company had just the same kind of problems with its Blu-ray hardware.
In the meantime, the Japanese and Korean manufacturers are on their fourth- or fifth-generation hardware, launching 3D-capable Blu-ray equipment left, right and centre. Suddenly the idea of a minimalist BD machine pitched at several times the price of a 3D-ready one from Sony or Panasonic, yet offering less than state-of-the-art facilities, looks like a hard sell.
At least those specialist, small-scale companies can clean up with multichannel amplifiers, yes? Er, no – today’s amplifiers and receivers are a minefield of standards, licensing and chipsets; even adding a simple feature can cost a fortune. Not bad when those costs will be spread over tens of thousands of units; tough when you may only sell hundreds.
As someone said to me the other day, “it was so much easier when it was just CD players and amplifiers”.
Andrew Everard, Audio Editor of Gramophone since November 1999, read English at Queens' College, Cambridge a very long time ago, and was a member of the Westminster Abbey Special Choir even further back in the mists of time. He has worked on What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision, High Fidelity, Audiophile and Home Cinema magazines, as well as contributing a monthly column to Japanese title HiVi.