A lot of us heard the rumors — they've been buzzing around for maybe a year. So it didn't come as a huge surprise when Barco and High End Systems announced the acquisition of the latter by the former. Big news, of course, and maybe it sent a minor shockwave through some of the industry but not entirely unexpected.
High End is more than an industry household name. Twenty-one years ago, the company was the first-ever exhibitor signed on for the first-ever LDI. Without companies like High End, there would likely be no LDI. In fact, maybe without High End, there would be no LDI.
Of course, there are those who have speculated over the years that the company has spread itself too thin, losing focus on simply creating great lighting: starting on consoles, moving into media servers — not that that hurt them; you've heard of the Wholehog and Catalyst, no? — and digital lighting, then back to “traditional lighting” again with Showgun last year, and to an LED wash/graphic fixture more recently with Showpix. Say what you will, but let's face it; reinventing themselves has never been a problem for the High End folks.
We asked all the pertinent questions of the High Enders in an exclusive online interview with HES chairman Merritt Belisle — a version printed here on p.10, for those of you who missed it — but there aren't a ton of specific decisions made just yet. For example, one can assume the major HES shareholders are pleased, but what will this say for the future of the company, the Austin facility in particular, and HES employees? Will High End remain a standalone brand and division within Barco? The announcement noted that High End will be fully integrated into Barco, but will there be further splintering of the brand? It would be a strange world of lighting indeed without the name High End in it.
All speculation, of course, and perhaps these questions are being answered and published on our website as I write this. Alas, the ‘net is faster (perhaps not yet mightier) than the pen in print. In any case, we'll be watching with great interest to see what products start appearing with this pairing.