First came the development and marketing of some familiar home electronics, including the videocassette recorder. Then the first consumer video camera. So, it’s no surprise that Bruce Allan is a staunch proponent of the latest high-end consumer technology, digital TV (DTV).
As vice president and general manager of Harris Corp.’s Broadcast Systems Division, Allan is encouraging broadcasters’ development of DTV and its various applications, including high-definition TV (HDTV), and generating acceptance of the new technology in the home. He also helped set HDTV standards as a member of the executive committee of the Grand Alliance.
“I really didn’t get involved with business or electronics until I was at the University of Maryland trying to figure out a career path,” Allan says. “I had parents who were very supportive [and] provided me with a lot of opportunities to learn and travel. So my career in consumer electronics … was a thing that happened as a set of circumstances.”
He began his career at RCA Corp. in 1970, working his way up to a vice presidency by 1985. “RCA and color television, at the time I was coming out of school, seemed like it would be a pretty exciting life,” Allan says.
But it wasn’t just circumstances that brought Allan where he is today. “Bruce is blessed with great intellect. Balance that with great experience and that’s a hard combination to beat,” says longtime business associate and friend Joe Clayton, chief executive officer of telephone and telecommunications company Frontier Corp. Plus, he says, Allan is a “very competent golfer.”
Allan uses that winning combination today to position Harris as a leader in HDTV by addressing customers as partners in developing solutions.
“We’ll have a much better understanding of their needs so we can do a much better job of providing next-level solutions,” Allan says. “Our customers are the ones we are serving. We can make them successful and if they are successful, we will be successful.”
He realizes that as HDTV evolves, the relationship between broadcasters and the consumer market is a “chicken-and-egg” scenario.
“For the consumer to adopt digital television and to adopt high definition television, it’s essential for us all to cooperate,” he says. “We need programming, we need sets and we need them in quantity in the marketplace at the same time. That’s going to happen. It’s going to take some time, but that bridge is happening.”
Harris helped build that bridge at the 1998 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas when Harris and CEMA presented an exhibit called “DTV in the Desert.” There, “broadcasters were in a position to talk first-hand with consumer electronics manufacturers. They tried to create an environment…where they could exchange information. We’ve continued working at that.”
Allan believes digital can be a huge benefit to consumers. “The advent of digital television is opening up a whole new multitude of things among broadcasters and consumer electronics companies in providing the types of services we provide today, but doing a better job of providing them,” he says. Also being developed are new services such as delivering Internet portals, data and multicasting. “It’s just a huge change and the change keeps coming faster and faster’ Allan says.
He also sees a “bright future” for digital radio. As players in that new field duel over setting a standard, Allan says, “The only question is how rapidly the parties can come together.”
As he looks optimistically to the future of TV and radio and the possibilities of new digital media in the home, he also reflects with some sentiment to his childhood, with his father as his role model. (He also has an older brother who is vice president of sales for Lucent Technologies in Korea.).
His father “came to this country from Scotland when he was 19 years old, worked as a carpenter and ended up basically as the head of the union internationally. He spent his whole life supporting his industry, his career and the people he represented. It definitely teaches you a value system.”
He brings that value system to his own family today. He attributes much of his successes to his high-school sweetheart and wife of 30 years, Kathryn. “I have a good family and hopefully we are supportive to our children,” he says.
“I’m pretty easy if I have a good job, a nice home and a golf course. I’m very content,” he says.
Bruce Mckay Allan
Bruce Allan, the vice president and general manager of consumer electronics company Harris Corp.’s Broadcast Systems Division, is a staunch supporter of High Definition Television (HDTV) and serves on the executive committee of the Grand Alliance, which sets standards for HDTV.