A recent tongue-in-cheek guide for technology journalists attending a press conference included the advice that, if stuck for questions, remark that the company has not yet been acquired by Cisco. The idea behind this is that any niche IT companies that haven't been acquired by a major industry player probably have the move on the horizon.
Consolidation is a theme that continues into the broadcast-technology realm. This applies to individual technologies incorporating each other, companies merging with each other and now of course, entire industries coming together.
In an era of mobility, IT now has an alliance with telecoms so it is perhaps no surprise that the worlds of telecoms and broadcast should be the latest to collide. The broadcast and IT sectors have of course also long been allies since the dawn of the digital era.
However, with such rapid change and the subsequent turbulence, broadcasters could be forgiven for feeling that the technology can feel, at times, somewhat experimental. In the USA, for example, which typically spearheads new products and workflows, there are reports of problems with some new systems.
This does have its benefits, however.The Middle East has the advantageous position of being the observer of the early adopters in other regions such as the UK and western Europe and learn from the issues they have had to overcome.
Quite often, challenges arise from errors during the process of evaluating and selecting a new solution or system. At trade shows around the world, it is easy to visit a stall, see an impressive demonstration of the latest products and believe that what you see is exactly what it will do for your station as soon as you plug it in.
What you don't see of course is the efforts behind the scenes (i.e. before the show) of creating the show-stopping effects you see on the exhibition screens. In some cases, they require the involvement of highly specialised (and therefore expensive) personnel from both the technical and creative fields.
As a result, some broadcasters have fallen foul of what they had been persuaded was possible and ended up significantly over budget. For example, one major national broadcaster I spoke with invested more than US $300,000 in the latest graphics and character-generator systems after seeing it demonstrated at a show.
However, on implementation, the system required such a high level of specialist input that the company subsequently spent its original investment again on consultants and specialists just to get it up and running.
Creating graphics in 3D formats is a prime example. With some systems, templates must be prepared off-line by specialist staff, which would make creating new effects on the fly during a live broadcast impossible for a regular operator.
Further, templates shown purely as examples during the sales pitch are not necessarily representative of what you will be able to achieve back at the studio. Consequently, you need to ask your supplier about the level of preparation involved in setting up your new system.
A further consideration is how reliable the technology can be, which is especially critical for live broadcasts. Products that simply boast redundancy are not sufficient - hardware is not the biggest problem.
If the software's reliability is not up to standard, it still means that a broadcast company has to run two of the same systems in parallel just in case one falls over live on air. In worse cases, broadcasters have had to effectively write-off their initial investment and install a further system from another provider that doesn't always talk to the original product.
So how can you ensure that you invest in a system that offers the latest technology you need but won't let you down? Sometimes, the latest function or capability, such as 3D graphics for example, can overshadow a products other features.
Sometimes, it can seem natural to assume that features you have in your legacy product or in older models will be present. For example, a variety of wipe patterns was once the latest must-have feature but now isn't necessarily included in all systems. It is therefore wise to check that all the features you want are included, even those you assume are a universal standard.
A further consideration when choosing a new technology stems from the culture of consolidation we see at the moment. The 3D format for graphics is a relative debutante in broadcast must not be so in other industries, as anyone from a pure graphics sector would attest.
While the telecoms industry rushes to catch up with the broadcast industry for the sake of providing video content on mobile devices, so too must the broadcast industry chase the world of graphics. In the meantime, buyers must bear in mind that the original purpose of the graphics they intend to implement was quite different from how they need to use the technology now.
3D graphics were not created with the thinking that they might one day migrate to screens bigger (e.g. TVs) or smaller (e.g. mobile devices) than those on games consoles.
Transferring them to a broadcast application has the potential to be a convoluted process without the right expertise, or more relevantly, the right graphics solution.
So we see that the ongoing march of consolidation across technologies, providers and even industries offers Middle East broadcasters a wealth of opportunities. The key is to understand which will work best to provide the sophisticated outputs you expect via the streamlined workflows you need. It's not so much about worlds colliding, but worlds colluding.