US: In the inevitable media storm surrounding the recent acquisition of Harman International Industries by affiliates of two major private equity companies, the publication of a report that sales of HiQnet-enabled products had grown by 100% from 2005 to 2006 went relatively unnoticed. With attention generated by the buyout now subsiding, David Davies considers the degree of actual adoption of the much-vaunted monitoring and control protocol that lies behind this impressive topline statistic.
Citing burgeoning sales across pro-install and live sound, Harman Pro Group revealed at the end of March that worldwide sales of HiQnet-enabled product had increased from $24m in 2005 to over $50m the following year. This headline growth figure is bolstered by details of a substantial increase in HiQnet-enabled products across the Harman group, from 38 to 64 product families - JBL Pro's VP Series loudspeakers and Soundcraft's Vi6 digital console were among the new initiates during 2006, with the Vi4 console (pictured) following in early 2007 - and news of installations encompassing venues as disparate as El Rey Jesus Church in Florida and the forthcoming O2 Arena in London. The technology was also deployed on tours by, among others, Eric Clapton and contemporary country singer Toby Keith.
While the news must be encouraging for Harman Pro, even executive vice-president Michael McDonald concedes that the organisation cannot be sure just how widely HiQnet control is actually being deployed. "Was the HiQnet functionality actually used in each instance? It's almost impossible to say, but I would guess (based upon my knowledge of many of the higher profile jobs), yes, that it was used, and that as such you do have $50m in HiQnet applications/installations," he tells PSN-e. "Consider the number of HiQnet-enabled [units] from JBL product alone - from VerTec DP to LSR - then consider the seven or so brands and the fact that there are 64 products skus, and $50m isn't that unfathomable."
One long-term industry observer - who has requested anonymity because of his consulting functions - isn't so sure. "While I could accept that $50m of HiQnet-capable products have been sold, I would estimate that no more than 10% of these systems are currently being used under HiQnet control. Maybe down the line this percentage will increase_"
Doubts also persist about the possibilities for integration of non-Harman products into a HiQnet-based specification. "With end-users looking increasingly for a fully integrated control and digital audio transfer infrastructure, HiQnet would need to be augmented with a transport medium such as CobraNet," says our observer.
Claims that HiQnet constitutes a closed system are, however, emphatically rejected by McDonald. "You can absolutely integrate non-Harman products on a HiQnet network and extract full functionality from those products," he says. "What you don't get by installing non-HiQnet product on a HiQnet network is the HiQnet configuration and remote control functionality that only comes from HiQnet product."
Whatever the full picture, Harman Pro Group's vice president system development & integration group, Rick Kreifeldt, says that Harman Pro remains "determined to increase the capabilities of HiQnet further and make it more powerful, useful and easier to deploy in a wide array of products for a broader range of applications."
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