In recent years, the term “native” has entered the lexicon of the AV industry as a replacement for “integrated” – it’s the ultimate level of platform integration and is closely correlated with providing the highest level of customer experience. Makes sense on the surface, right?
Theoretically, if a solution is “native,” then all of the pieces fit nicely together like a puzzle, requiring less integration effort and allowing less room for end-user error. To the astute observer, however, that’s only half the story!
So what’s the difference between integrated and native?
Let’s take an example from Microsoft. Microsoft Office is native to Windows OS. Each program is tightly tuned to interact well with the others; moreover, the total experience within the Windows environment seems natural. But anyone who’s tried to make the transition to the Mac environment knows the pain associated with trying to get the full Microsoft Office experience outside of its “native surrounding.” Is it technically integrated? Sure. But cringe-worthy quirks, nuances, and incompatibility issues sometimes compel users to heave their computers out a window!
True “native” solutions add additional value beyond just being “integrated.” Of course, we expect native solutions to work seamlessly together across the signal chain (which means less time spent creating those “integration” points). But you should also expect that, by combining all of these native pieces, they maximize the performance and value of the greater platform.
For example, when you combine a manufacturer’s processor with the same manufacturer’s network amplifiers and loudspeakers, you expect not only for these components to work together, but also for the entire system as a whole to perform better than if it were comprised of disparate manufacturer components, right?!
Let’s take that example one step further and discuss issues that aren’t always apparent on the invoice. A native solution also infers that the manufacturer has fully vetted each component in the portfolio and knows precisely how it performs in the wild, knows its limits, and knows how to troubleshoot the entire system.
If you combine a manufacturer’s processor with non-native amplifiers, for example, you’re integrating a device that is untested and unsupported by the processor’s manufacturer. Aside from the added installation time (and costs!), there’s no guarantee that the non-native solution will work the way you expect it to. If that device fails, you might spend more time troubleshooting and potentially more time re-integrating the device, leading to much higher costs over the system’s lifetime.
While no system is completely bulletproof, a native solution means there is a single source to turn to when issues arise. Someone intimately knows the signal chain of each component and is able to support the whole system.
“Native” is so much more than being integrated. Native means that each component is designed to work seamlessly together and draw the very best performance across the signal chain in a way that cannot be matched by a disparate collection of non-native devices. It means simpler integration, expedited deployment, and overall better performance for customers. So, the next time you’re designing a technology system, maybe it’s time to go native.