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Competition Is Fun

8/23/2013
RevoBlog
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InfoComm and my last blog are a few weeks behind us now – clearly, time flies!

Our announcement and showing of the new Revolabs Executive Elite™ at InfoComm must have piqued the interest of our competitors in the market.  Actually, it clearly put fear into some of them – I cannot otherwise explain the things I am hearing from the field.  There are stories told by our competitors about our technology, products, and features which are clearly aimed at muddying the water.  Or perhaps I am giving our competition too much credit, and they really just don’t know any better!

Let me address some of the untruths or otherwise misleading statements that have recently been said about our technology:

“Revolabs will stop selling Executive HD™ once Executive Elite™ is available.  They are now just trying to empty their warehouse.”

Well, I think we have shown that we continue to sell and more importantly support our previous product lines after announcing new product lines.  Let me give you an example.  The Executive Solo™ product line is still being sold by us 4 years after Executive HD was announced.  Either we had a lot of product in our warehouse (hint: we did not), or we believe in a multi-product strategy (hint: we do!).  Please give us also a little more credit.  If we wanted to empty our warehouses, don’t you think we would have done that before we announced Executive Elite?  On purpose, we designed the Executive Elite product to look different and feel different from Executive HD.  There are features that will be available in Executive HD but not in Executive Elite, and Executive Elite will add a lot of new features not available in Executive HD.  There will continue to be reasons for us to sell both products to cover all the different requirements set forth by our customers, and there will be reasons for our customers to buy one or the other.  So let me give you the news: Executive HD will not be discontinued just because Executive Elite is being introduced!

“Company XYZ has better audio quality, because Revolabs product is based on a DECT chip that is used worldwide for cordless phones.”

I must be missing something in this argument.  Is it meant to say that DECT phones are bad, and therefore our technology is bad?  The competitor mentioning that the DECT chip is used for phones (or baby monitors in some other communications) is using a frequency band that is used in industrial applications to heat-shrink plastic – I don’t think that this in itself is an argument that their audio is not good.  But following their lead, maybe it is?

Unless you have a “not invented here” attitude it makes a lot of sense to use available technology and not reinventing the wheel.  Billion dollar corporations around the globe are developing DECT technology and products based on DECT technology – so this is a serious and robust solution for communication needs.  The DECT chip and the DECT technology provide a means to transport the audio data in a robust and interference eliminating way.  And as such they can be used in a lot of different applications, yes, including phones and baby monitors, but also wireless microphone systems.

The audio quality is not dependent on the DECT chip or the DECT technology.  The standard allows for different data bandwidth per audio channel which allows the user to send high quality audio if they so decide.  The audio quality depends on the microphone elements, the algorithms used to digitize the audio, and the amount of radio bandwidth you reserve per microphone channel.  Phones and baby monitors have different implementations based on their requirements, mostly not focusing on high quality audio.  A business application like our microphones comes to a different implementation using the same carrier frequency (and yes, the same chip set), but providing completely different audio quality.  That is what we know how to do and that is what our focus is on, and not on reinventing and developing radio chipsets which have no impact on audio quality.  We leave that to the billion dollar corporations to do it for us.

By the way, there are a lot of reasons why DECT is the perfect frequency band and technology to use for wireless microphones over other frequencies, but this is the story for another blog.

“Revo’s latency is 20 mSec”

Yes, this is close enough to say it is correct.  But why does our competition think that this is a problem? 

I agree that there are applications, like concerts or recording studios, where people cannot accept latencies beyond a few milliseconds.  But in these environments there are also the resources available to optimize audio behavior and resolve any interference issues that may arise.  Have you ever seen what happens when there is an audio problem in a concert?  How many people suddenly flood the stage to get it resolved?  And that is just the tip of the iceberg of the A/V specialists working on that.  Now think about what happens when there is an audio problem in the middle of a video conference in a meeting?  Well, usually you will not find the luxury of a lot of A/V people just waiting to fix this problem at right that time for you in the meeting room and therefore your video conference will fail.

Corporations’ needs and live performance’s needs are different.  In a corporation a system is needed that does not require manual interaction as soon as another wireless device somewhere in the vicinity starts sending a radio signal in the same frequency.  It needs to be no-maintenance or low-maintenance.  That is what our solution using DECT provides with automatic channel switching as soon as potential interference is detected.  Systems that assign one channel fixed to a microphone might be able to provide low latencies, but are high maintenance.  Be also careful on the delay times that are being provided.  “Digital audio out” requires the audio to be transformed back into an analog signal.  Our system already includes the transformation into analog data – does that feel to you like comparing apples and tomatoes?

But the real question is – how important is latency below 20 ms?  Clearly, latency that impacts the audio experience is unacceptable, but does 20 ms impact the audio experience in corporate applications?  To answer the question – it does not.

The most common use cases for Revolabs wireless microphones are audio conferencing, video conferencing, and voice reinforcement.  All of these applications allow for latency in the range of what our microphones introduce and therefore there is no impact on the audio quality and audio experience in the applications you are using them for.

“Not only does our microphone audio outperform Revo, it outperforms all analog wireless microphones”

Right after that our competitor asks you to plug a bass guitar into their system and then proceeds to tell you that it will sound like a wired mic or actually better.  Maybe somebody should remind them of the use case of the microphones.  We have optimized our microphone systems to work in the audio applications that are most important for our customers!  And getting a great bass guitar sound out of the microphone does not mean that your day-to-day audio needs in your corporate meeting room will go on without a problem, or for that matter provide better audio quality.

Revolabs wireless microphones are used in conference rooms, training rooms, collaboration rooms, and meeting areas.  In all of these environments you will find a high noise floor, and a reduced dynamic range in which your microphones need to work best.  The audio that is captured is human speech, not instruments.  We ensure that the audio that is important to you is at its best in our microphone systems!

“DECT encryption employs a relatively weak 64‐bit cypher….”

Encryption seems to be another hot item for our competitors.  While DECT encryption (the encryption key is 128 bit by the way) is not perfect, it is still better than no encryption.  Which is exactly what the competitor who brings this up is selling to you unless you ask (and pay extra) for any encryption.  And while it looks easy on YouTube how you can break DECT, don’t believe everything you see on the internet.

But the real point is – did our competitor miss that we switched to the AES-256 standard?  In fact, the Revolabs Executive HD MaxSecure product (featuring our AES-256 encryption implementation that includes dynamic keying - we re-key every 60 seconds) won two awards at InfoComm this year! We have also made this encryption standard on the new Executive Elite product.  I can only assume they are trying to detract from a shortfall of their own AES-256 implementation.  The risk with any encryption implementation is if you do not change the encryption key.  Expecting human intervention (“it is as easy as pressing two buttons during the coffee break”) to update keys means only one thing – it is never happening.  Or in any case not regularly.  Because people drink coffee during the coffee breaks and don’t visit the A/V room with the microphones to press buttons.  You get real protection only by updating the key automatically and regularly.  That is why we implemented it as part of our AES-256 encryption.

I think the competitor should have stopped right after they said “I am not an expert on Revo” in their write-up, because clearly they are not.  I am not saying that their product doesn’t have some advantages, but not the ones they are trying to push in the market.

As I said in the heading, I believe competition is fun.  Especially when your competitors try to tell you that you did something right by trying to find arguments against what you did – and obviously not find them.  Let’s bring it on, and have more fun with the competitive comparison!

If you heard more fun “facts” about our products from the competition, let me know at hstoltze@revolabs.com.

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