Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Planar to acquire Clarity

A few months ago, a number of us in the digital signage space received calls from folks at Planar. If I recall, the conversation went something like this:

Planar: Hi there! We'd like to buy somebody. Know anybody good?
Us: Um, not really.
Planar: Oh, c'mon. Do you want to sell to us?
Us: No, thanks.
Planar: Really? Well, we want to buy somebody.
Us: Yes, we gathered as much. Please go bother some of our competitors. There are about 8,000 to choose from.

Well, it looks like they were finally able to complete a deal, and to my surprise, they chose Clarity Visual Systems. Best known for their screen hardware (especially their zero-mullion projection screens), Clarity is also known for having acquired the software formerly known as CoolSign last year. According to this article at Kiosk Marketplace, the acquisition price was only $46M, which seems low to me. Then again, the hardware business is known to come with some capital risks, so that may have tempered the price some.

It will be quite interesting to see what becomes of Clarity's hardware and software lines. I could see Planar trying to make inroads with the software and management end of things, but as I alluded to above, they'd be playing in quite a crowded market. On the other hand, they could focus on Clarity's screen technology, which is also a challenging route given the number of options available to us from the major screen manufacturers. Clarity does have a good hold in banks/credit unions and command and control centers, though, so that might be a foothold that Planar has been looking for.

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