On the big screen

On the big screen

Teachers need all the help they can get in capturing the attention of students. Visual display technologies, including projectors and whiteboards, are seeing teachers get the message out via a range of multimedia tools.

New and improved features such as 3D functionality, as well as reduced prices, make projectors a real crowd pleaser, according to Image and Design Technology (IDT) managing director, Gerry Wilkins.

"It's a reality of the modern classroom," he said. "Presentation and display technologies are now an inherent part of education."

Many schools were deploying multimedia tools to stay competitive, Wilkins said.

So what is academia after? Education professionals may require a lightweight and easy-to-use projector to travel from classroom to classroom, or a high-resolution display with broad signal capability for detailed, complex imaging.

IDC PC hardware market analyst, Mercie Clement, said demand in the education space would remain hot. But she pointed out it was a relatively tough market for new vendors and traditional IT resellers.

"While a lot of vendors are getting into this space, some are already entrenched with established channels," she said.

NEC, for example, maintained a strong pro-AV channel fuelling momentum in the education market and had captured a good chunk of the education market in Queensland.

"IT resellers are starting to enter the projector space, but the pro-AV specialists are already up and running," she said.

Shedding light on education

Drilling down on market numbers, Epson marketing manager, Mike Pleasants, said the total projector uptake in Australia was about 100,000 units a year. The overall market was growing at about 15-20 per cent per year.

"Within there, education is one of our fastest growing segments," he said.

Pleasants said top market drivers included an ongoing move from blackboards to electronic whiteboards, and increasing uptake of IT in schools. "It's getting to the point where every student needs a laptop and the schools need a multitude of projectors," he said.

"Whether it's learning establishments where nIT infrastructure is advanced, through to smaller schools limited by cash or technology equipment, projectors are being invited into the mix.

Mitsubishi Electric audiovisual product manager, Matt Hanna, said it was aggressively going after the education space.

"It's not just universities that are interested, but the primary and secondary schools. We're seeing more and more classrooms being decked out with audio-visual gear," he said.

Hanna cited growing opportunities in the portable category, offering lower cost and mobility for smaller classrooms, as well as with high-end professional equipment for auditoriums, lecture theatres and sporting arenas.

An important feature in the mobile category was monitor output capability, he said.

"It's a requested feature for this market," Hanna said. "With a desktop PC, users can plug in an external monitor."

The big winner in education was low-end, SVGA-based gear, IDC's Clement said. Advances in SVGA technology and components, along with a reduction in price, had seen this category remain the most popular in the education space.

First and foremost, however, education professionals were looking for reliability, Epson's Pleasants said.

"In many cases, it's becoming the main teaching tool so there needs to be minimal downtime," he said.

Installations at smaller schools, which required one or two units, were also looking for price competitive gear and enhanced brightness, Pleasants said.

"They want as many lumens as possible," he said.

Climbing up the food chain, well-funded establishments, such as universities, required wireless and networking functionality as well as enhanced security.

While there's action on the smaller scale, the education market is typically buying in multiples rather than single units.

"These customers need a lot of hand-holding in terms of training, support and add-on services," he said. "This is a good market for resellers if they can build up relationships."

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