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The Long-Term Outlook

TWICE: Look ahead 10 years from now. Describe the products that will be installed, the companies that will sell and install them and the role of the future installer. Will everything be wireless and plug-and-play?

Sylvester: What you’ll see is the very same picture Sonance has been painting for the past 20-plus years — systems that are invisible to the eye and are controlled by panels no bigger than a light switch. Legacy devices such as DVD players will still be a part of this picture, but these systems will allow users to seamlessly access content over the Internet.

I foresee these systems will also be tied into a central system within a community, enabling users to access local information as well.

You’ll even see IP addresses working within the home as well as through the Internet. The key will be software, as it needs to be standardized, allowing hardware manufacturers to separate themselves from the competition by the features they offer — similar to today’s computer industry.

It will be important for software to be standardized by one or two companies. This will cut down on consumer confusion and allow hardware companies to freely create and add features that improve their product’s user friendliness. That is an important point — innovation can’t be stopped by a format war. I think if we can avoid that, you’ll really see this industry begin to define itself — where you’ll still have companies specializing in speakers and amplifiers while other companies will focus on video and overall control via system integration and automation.

Detmer: The products/services likely to be available 10 years from now will integrate home, workplace, car and personal electronics into one master system that seamlessly incorporate information, security, personal health, communications and entertainment products for it users. The companies that sell these products will be channel-specific, centered on providing customer intimacy i.e., products/services that are fine-tuned to each individual. Anything that you can digitize, you can customize. So, installers will be technically competent but also highly skilled in needs analysis and tailoring systems to their clients’ specific needs.

Jacobs: Regarding wireless, the technology for high performance doesn’t currently exist for loudspeakers. Until wireless is really wireless, we do not see how this is applicable to networked homes and speakers. Wireless speakers don’t have a speaker wire, but they still have to be plugged into a wall. Because wire and other infrastructure elements are profit centers for installers, it will be difficult to see a market demand for less. Today, wire equals better performance. Until wireless equals better performance, wires should continue to dominate the market.

Weissburg: I think the A/V receiver will evolve into a true media control center of the home with the ability to process all aspects of audio, video, content management and control.

Installers will play a greater role in the consumer electronics industry as consumers need help sorting out and integrating home entertainment devices that will be utilized in all rooms of the home. The trade will continue to be very specialized but at different levels depending on the application. I think the future installer will be recognized as the technology, connectivity and home integration expert that will most likely reach beyond what we see today and simply audio and video. Consumers will look to theses specialist as the person who can apply technology to entertainment enjoyment without the need to be a technophile.