INDIANAPOLIS -- Even without a single home network standard to unify products with plug-and-play ease, custom installers generated revenue of $4.2 billion, including labor charges, in 1999, CEDIA announced in releasing the results of its first market-quantification survey in several years.
For the most part, leading installers believe plug and play, particularly "no-new-wires" plug-and-play systems, will not threaten their livelihood but will force a change in the way they do business.
"If the PC industry can make plug and play work, it will be a home run for us," said CEDIA VP Jeff Hoover during a seminar, because "more people will see the potential, and many will aspire to something better." Those people populate the households CEDIA serves, he added.
"The PC industry is pushing no-new-wires and plug and play," Hoover said, "but there is still a place for us." CEDIA dealers offer follow-up service, he pointed out, "and some people always want better."
To cash in on the changing home-network market, however, custom installers will have to learn new skill sets. Because new home network technologies will marry audio, video and computer technologies, they will require "a huge shift in our personnel," said Greg Jensen, a seminar speaker.
"You'll have to learn IT skills or bring in someone with IT skills," said the engineering director for installer Engineered Environments of Oakland, Calif. For example, said Jensen, "they'll need to be familiar with how an Ethernet connection terminates."
A small number of installers have already risen to challenge, said CEDIA's Hoover. More installers are installing home PC networks than six months ago, and a few have even begun to install cable or DSL modems for service providers or their subcontractors.
Such diversification is critical to continued profitability, he contended. Not only do new disciplines create sources for new leads, but it's more efficient, and therefore more profitable, to install five different subsystems in one house, compared to installing one system in five different houses. In addition, said Hoover, consumers will pay 10 percent more to someone who delivers one-stop shopping because it saves time.