I'm back from Lightfair International, an experience that has left me musing about the weird pace of change in this business — in other words, the time lag that exists between announcement and reality.
This became obvious when I saw the Hubbell booth. Hubbell Entertainment showed its new range, which has earned very good buzz. Several LDs have spec'd Hubbell gear in new projects. Then, I remembered Hubbell Entertainment's debut at LDI 2001; the entire line of products was announced, then disappeared from sight for nearly two years. During that time, a number of people came and went from Hubbell Entertainment (and one, Harvey Hazelwood, died, far too soon, at the age of 60). The good news is, the products are out. But, to me, it's a strange way of doing business.
I don't mean to single out Hubbell, because everybody — and I mean everybody — does this. A year ago, at SIB, I saw the new Martin Maxxyz console, which got plenty of interest. It also garnered interest at PLASA and LDI. A week or two ago, I got a press release about a beta version. And let's not even talk about High End Systems' Wholehog® III, which was announced and announced before finally being released. Then again, some products just vanish — think of PRG's Icon M, which dazzled showgoers a few LDIs back, then never made it to market.
There's a time lag in ideas, too. For example, the buzz at Lightfair this year was the omnipresence of LEDs. Listening to people talk, I began to feel that I was lost among members of a religious cult. Will LEDs really cut power usage, save billions of dollars, save the planet, and make the lightbulb obsolete? Maybe, probably, but really, things don't seem to be any further along from last year, when we first heard that LEDs were going to take over the world. In fact, a number of LDs were frankly skeptical. People are still waiting for that breakout product.
There are good reasons for this. These products are complex and require much tweaking to get right. Companies often use product launches to get customer feedback, then it's back to the factory for changes; it's like an out-of-town tryout for a Broadway musical — you show it off to find out what works and what doesn't. But sometimes it can be a little frustrating. We here at LD are always interested in finding The Next Big Thing, as, I suspect, are most designers. I guess we have to get used to living in a time warp. The future is always happening, yet it always seems just out of reach.