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Report from Developers Conference - 2016

ericmedleyericmedley Senior Member - 4000+ postsPosts: 4,177
Report from the AMX Developers Conference 2016 - Richardson Texas. August 2016

DevCon 2016 was pretty good this year. As you all know this was the first full year of (using the term I heard many AMX-ers use) the "Harmonization" of AMX. One can definitely see the effects of the newer corporate climate.
A couple most notable things I witnessed were 1) Harmon seems to have a much more strict policy on vaporware. AMX is obviously under more strict control on just what they'll announce as coming out "soon." The rule is they cannot announce a feature/product/etc... that is more than 90 days out for release. The hope seems to be that they will cut back on the occurrence of disappointment when a thing doesn't happen on schedule or comes out lacking the original features promised.

A second seemed to be that Harmon allows its employees to speak a little more frankly on certain things. Of note to me was a little more honest assessment of their stance on the Resi market. We all know that for years AMX typically did the "Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain" approach when being challenged on their support of the Resi market.

Now, they are pretty open about how they treated Resi and are not necessarily apologetic but acknowledge that it was not their top focus. And since I can hear the Resi guys asking in my head - The response from AMX on what their current stance is (paraphrasing) "we are studying the market right now trying to see if we can come up with a good path forward." It's my guess that path will be something with a "fill-in'the-check-boxes" type environment. There will still be some nod to higher end systems and thus programmers. But, it's clearly heading down-market.

Another effect of Harmon is their program of breaking up the Silos of each company they own. I'm actually pretty impressed with the effect in that rather than each company kind of digging in their heels it seems they are exited to share technologies, thus making the scope of each a bit larger. There are many facets to how this plays out, especially for us AMX people.

To keep the report shorter than novel-length: One is that I think it actually takes some of the pressure off AMX to move down-market. As we all know, there is a strong push for most technology companies to move down-market where the volume of sales lives. The issue is most these companies don't really have the resources to be both a down-market and up-market entity.

In the case of Harmon - AMX can still be an up-market company, developing for the large enterprise level systems and bleeding edge technologies. The down-market stuff can fall into other parts of Harmon that leverage AMX technology under the hood. This give them access to the down-market without taking out the up-market. I see this as a good thing in the long-haul.

SVSi is obviously a big thing for them. It was featured much in the conference. And my opinion is that it is indeed a good thing, potentially a game-changing thing for large video systems. SVSi is now officially Netlinx Native. This means it will be a device on the tree and you'll be able to send string/commands like any other AMX device and more importantly, the Serial and IR ports are now the same as other AMX ports. You can send/receive stuff just like an NI or ExB. No more polling for string returns and so-forth.

I took the BSS/SoundWeb training. I think most know my feelings about the London Soundweb control protocol. It, for the short term, will still have the cumbersome protocol. However, they did say they were working on a new "text based" protocol that will be along the lines of other DSP. I don't know if this means all Processing Objects will be virtualized like say the Biamp Tesira (which means you can just change the name of a PO to match the code - thus not breaking code if you modify/change the PO) But, at least a human-readable text will greatly help in the commissioning/troubleshooting department. Here again - with the Harmon 90 days rule they were not commenting on a date. My 'feeling' is early next year.

Regarding the question posed on the forum about RMS: There was not a lot of discussion on the next resale of RMS and the attendant SDK. I'm assuming there won't be a lot of new things of note. Obviously, they are fixing a few issues and enhancing others. The center of the discussion of RMS seemed more focused on its future in Harmon. Keeping in mind my comments about how Harmon is breaking silos, It's obvious that Harmon sees RMS as a technology it can move around in its larger organization to other verticals like building/environmental controls, automotive control, live venue, etc... Apparently, they see its potential in being a central repository for "info-metrics" (the gathering of run-time information that can be reacted to and monitored live)

For those of us who have our issues with the whole RMS design - One might react with a large dose of skepticism. However, stepping back a bit, it does make a lot of sense. Programming bloat and design issues can be overcome. The core of the concept is sound and I do agree the idea can be expanded quite easily. My experience with RMS is that us AV programmers don't quite 'get it' but most every IT-centric person I've interacted with seem very comfortable with it. They quickly navigate around it and feel at home. that is who the target audience of RMS is.

In my AMX V.I.P. business world, RMS is becoming a large chunk of what I do. I find myself fascinated with where it seem to be going and where it is taking my business.

AMX Touch Panels: This still remains a flummoxing area in my mind. I won't bore you with a lot of side discussion on my opinions... Here are just the facts that I saw. AMX showed off their latest offering of sexy panels that mainly highlighted their deployment hardware. (you know the ones that slowly rise from a table or a slot under that table) The Q&A sessions mainly focused on issues with the swiping gestrues and how they worked or not as well as what was coming down the road in regards to graphic formats and scalabilty and so forth. My feeling is that there is not a lot of movement in this area. HTML 5 is coming but I felt like there were a few key things missing like scalable and vector graphics.

One thing that did catch my attention was a seeming small statement about the plan to discontinue G4. Not that this more than ten year old technology should not be given the gold watch and a pat on the back, but the statement has more far reaching implications.

My following statements are not fact, but opinion. I have not seen what I'd call a wide-scale adoption of G5s. To date, most the projects I'm sent from the many AV integration firms still call mainly for G4s. When I ask about it, they state the price points and apparent strangeness of the G5 roll-out missing a lot of programming features for being the reason for sticking with G4s. (pointing the the fact that most of us who had already well thought-through UI code had to change a lot to accommodate a new set of commands that still did the same kinds of stuff but with modified protocol) All us programmers knew they would eventually get the control protocol back to parity after a time. But, all the AV integration firms saw was us programmers adding hours to a bid to accommodate the new touch panels.

Furthering my opinion section - I don't know what this means for TP Control. The scuttlebutt I hear is that there is no plan for TP Control to migrate to the G5 platform. I'm sure they can chime in here if I'm wrong about that and hope they do. But, if I'm correct, and then hearing at DevCon that there seems to be a definite chopping block date for G4, it leaves the question of what's coming to the whole notion of mobile device UI. It is my opinion that AMX is being handed its 'hind quarters' in this market. It is universally seen as the strangest area of their product line. (IMHO)

On a much lighter note and one that touches most of us here on the forum: the new Netlinx Studio will feature some really cool new toys. Mr. Valosek and the software engineers chatted with us and took lots of notes on our use of the development tools. Netlinx Studio will soon feature many new improvements such as control/emasculation of Custom Events and a new bulk-loader for device firmware as well as a bulk-manager of Security Certificates. These features were met with actual applause and approval.

The long asked-for feature of being able to monitor IP continuations through Diagnostics still remains afar off. The heart of the issue lies between two worlds: The Netlinx Studio software and what layer it uses to send/receive Diagnostics/Emulation/Control a Device and so forth and the Firmware running in a Netlinx Master. Shane of firmware explained that the IP communications to and from the Master happens a few layers above where the communication between the Master and the Netlinx software occur. It is not impossible to bridge the gap, but it will take considerably more than a little effort to develop it. And here we see the rub: considerably more effort means considerably more development resources (ie. Money) both software engineering and firmware said it's not impossible and they could do it, but it was a lot more than a simple fix. It would require quite a chunk of employee-hours to get it done. It sounds like, if we really want this, we are going to have to become pretty vocal about it and quit yelling at the engineers and start yelling at the sales reps and managers instead. Consider this your marching orders programmers...

Last thoughts and observations... In previous years DevCon was pretty much an US AMX VIP gathering. It has long been discussed to open it up. This year there were several representatives from Australia and Canada. It was a delight to have them attend. Great things are happening in both those areas of the world and their participation was truly a delight. I hope to see more and more of the world-wide community in attendance. Also, there were a few non-VIPs who attained their ACSM present and their contribution was awesome as well. It is hoped that the event will evolve and grow to include more and more AMXers.

There was a lot more that we saw that would drag this report into "novel' territory that I deliberately leave out. What I've mentioned is merely a high-altitude view.

Lastly, I'd like to offer high praise to Chris Backus and the staff at AMX for putting on the event. It continues to grow and improve and each year I leave feeling better and better about the prospects of the business I love. Chris has done a fabulous job with the VIP program and the staff are truly passionate about what we do.

Respectfully submetted,
Eric Medley

Comments

  • MLaletasMLaletas Junior Member Posts: 226
    Awesome report Eric, thanks so much for taking the time into writing that up for us!
  • viningvining X Member Posts: 4,368
    +1

    Resi, expected outcome, no commitment and with the loss of programmers not likely able to rebound since programmers won't return and not likely for newbs to consider the challenge of becoming one.

    G4 ends, TPC no G5, figures, but what for portables?

    Seems like the niche is getting smaller and more specialized but with a smaller niche it takes an even smaller asteroid to make it extinct.
  • sling100sling100 Junior Member Posts: 104
    As far as I was aware the reason there is no G5 version of TPC is because AMX won't release the protocol to them. If they are going to discontinue G4 then surely they will have to change that. And make a G5 version of the R4 :cool:
  • ericmedleyericmedley Senior Member - 4000+ posts Posts: 4,177
    sling100 wrote: »
    As far as I was aware the reason there is no G5 version of TPC is because AMX won't release the protocol to them. If they are going to discontinue G4 then surely they will have to change that. And make a G5 version of the R4 :cool:


    One of the things I left out (due to length of the report) was discussion of a hand held remote. The VIPs asked about the prospects of one. The engineers polled the class about their thoughts on how it should communicate (WiFi, etc...) Obviously, there are battery life issues with any kind of wireless 2-way connection and WiFi is a pretty spendy method. I don't know if this conversation will result in any movement towards a hard button hand-held remote. But, it was discussed.
  • viningvining X Member Posts: 4,368
    sling100 wrote: »
    As far as I was aware the reason there is no G5 version of TPC is because AMX won't release the protocol to them. If they are going to discontinue G4 then surely they will have to change that. And make a G5 version of the R4 :cool:

    I can easily seze AMX leaving TPC high and dry like they did resi guys especially since TPC is was geared more for resi but impacts their commerical sales since its a less expensive option, take away that option and TP sales are back.
  • sling100sling100 Junior Member Posts: 104
    ericmedley wrote: »

    But, it was discussed.

    Well that's a start I guess! IMHO a hard button remote is essential for any kind of non-corporate environment, especially when navigating an on-screen GUI. You need to look at the screen not the remote.
  • Joe HebertJoe Hebert Junior Member Posts: 2,159
    ericmedley wrote:
    As you all know this was the first full year of (using the term I heard many AMX-ers use) the "Harmonization" of AMX.
    You mentioned in another thread that Harmon bought AMX a year ago as well. Just for the sake of accuracy, the acquisition was finalized over 2 years ago and announced in a press release dated June 13, 2014.

    http://www.amx.com/includes/pressrelease-file.asp?release=2014.6.18
    ericmedley wrote:
    SVSi is now officially Netlinx Native. This means it will be a device on the tree and you'll be able to send string/commands like any other AMX device and more importantly, the Serial and IR ports are now the same as other AMX ports. You can send/receive stuff just like an NI or ExB. No more polling for string returns and so-forth.
    This has been discussed before but it's just been talk and no action as of yet. I just got off the phone with Tech Support and I believe that your declaration that SVSi is now officially Netlinx Native is premature. Tech support says the date they have is October and they have no further info on it. Official to me means shipping and supported. That doesn't appear to be the case. There is not even any preliminary documentation to look at. Is Tech Support wrong?
  • ericmedleyericmedley Senior Member - 4000+ posts Posts: 4,177
    Joe Hebert wrote: »
    There is not even any preliminary documentation to look at. Is Tech Support wrong?

    They handed out the documentation at the conference. I have a copy.
  • Joe HebertJoe Hebert Junior Member Posts: 2,159
    ericmedley wrote: »
    They handed out the documentation at the conference. I have a copy.

    Good to know. I'll follow up and get a copy myself. Thanks.

    Still don't consider SVSi as officially Netlinx Native until it ships and is supported. Still months away....
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