After several months of planning and preparation, the week-long flurry of activity of NAB2006 has already come and gone. Now the post-show discussion begins. Our June issue will have details of the products and services that were shown at the convention, but until then, here are some of the prevailing ideas and themes from the show.
Just as in previous years, the top item of interest was once again digital radio, and HD Radio was in the spotlight. There were some exhibits discussing DRM and a few mentions of FM Extra. There was nothing on Cam-D.
While the RF side of HD Radio is not necessarily new, the capabilities of multicasting and datacasting garnered lots of interest. While the big players are investigating the second and third phases of deployment, the smaller groups and stand-alone owners are finally taking notice of HD Radio. Several transmitter manufacturers told me that they were answering basic questions from groups that are now looking to get started.
The early adopters are already on board. Now the middle adopters are beginning to take note.
One absence on the convention floor was Ibiquity itself, which did not have a booth, although representatives from the company were making the rounds. Some people think that this was a poor choice from Ibiquity, but I disagree. While the out-of-site, out-of-mind mentality is easy to apply, it's more important to keep a broad perspective in mind. What would Ibiquity have shown in its booth? More HD Radio receivers? Done that. Discuss the technology? Already heard that. Ibiquity was represented in the booths of transmitter manufacturers, antenna manufacturers and automation suppliers. Just like Fraunhofer and Coding Technologies didn't push MP3 and AAC Plus from a booth, neither does Ibiquity have to.
The second main discussion item can be described by the word co-opetition, the merging of the words cooperation and competition. When two companies compete for the same market segment it seems impossible that there could be some common ground for both players to work together on something that would be mutually beneficial, but that's exactly what happens. On further investigation, it can be seen that the competitive element between the two companies actually has some areas that do not overlap. With some coordination, the missing elements of one can be paired with the strengths of another to develop the competitive cooperation: co-opetition.
There were two prominent examples of this at the convention: Nautel and Continental working together to market their FM product lines in the United States and Canada, and Radio Systems and Axia providing Axia IP audio connectivity in the Radio Systems Millenium consoles.
Both efforts pair the strengths of the players. While in the short-term there may be some loss in a given aspect, the long-term will likely benefit both more. It also benefits radio broadcasters by providing additional choices and options.
This level of cooperation is something new, but there are examples of past efforts that paved the way. One came to pass about a year ago when Translantech Sound partnered with Broadcast Warehouse to work on audio processing. Others are less familiar, such as the small Harris console that was actually an Arrakis console on the inside.
We haven't seen the end of these partnerships yet.
The third popular topic wraps audio inside an IP package. IP Audio--also not the newest technology--seemed to be a part of many things. The three more popular forms of IP Audio, Ethersound, Cobranet and Axia, were in lots of exhibits. Even OMT had a display with Wheatstone's version. IP audio is making its way into our studios, and it's also being shown to be viable outside as well.
Distribution of audio via codecs from Comrex, Tieline, Musicam and Prodys showed that IP networks are a viable means of audio contribution. We have seen examples of this previously from Audio TX and Energy-Onix, but we are now on phase two of the technology.
Until the June issue arrives, you can also see the sights of NAB2006 in the Radio magazine Daily Photo Blog and news from the convention in the NAB Insider. Both are available at