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Russound, vNet Prepare Products, Programs

NEWMARKET, N.H. — Russound
and Colorado vNet are
rolling out new products and programs
while maintaining separate
market identities and putting the
finishing touches on revised distribution
strategies, executives
said during a day-long presentation
to the press.

Russound rescued Colorado
vNet last October from closure
and has been combining key
vNet and Russound business
functions, excluding sales and
marketing. During that time, vNet has
been replacing its Colorado-based inside
sales force with independent reps, expanding
the brand’s independent installer
base in a controlled manner, bringing
to market most of the products in previous
management’s roadmap, and preparing
new products and programs.

vNet’s new products include an iPad
app that dealers will sell to consumers
to control vNet’s IP-based Vibe multiroom-
audio/home-control system,
which distributes content over an Ethernet

vNet’s new programs include downloads
of customizable flyers, online
training to replace three-day courses in
vNet’s Colorado facilities, online
demo tools on YouTube,
and online training on the basics
of lighting control and home
automation. Lighting basics will
become available in August, followed
by additional courses over
the following four months.

For its part, Russound significantly cut back its roster of
distributors and recently added
AVAD, the nationwide distributor
of custom-installed products,
to reduce pricing pressure
and leverage AVAD’s marketing
prowess and dealer support. Russound
primarily uses distributors to
reach installers.

In other initiatives, Russound is
launching new online webinars to better
educate dealers about the retrofit potential of the company’s recently
launched IP-based Collage Media and Intercom system, which uses a home’s
power lines to distribute audio and control
signals. Collage was designed to reduce install
time and end-user costs in retrofit applications
while expanding the industry’s
customer base to existing-home owners.

Collage’s acceptance has been “pretty
good,” but the company believes the
new webinars, which will supplement
existing ones, will accelerate sales by
focusing more on educating dealers
about the value and sales potential of
the system rather than on the technical
aspects of the technology used, said
product manager Walt Zerbe. Collage,
he explained, can reduce the installed
cost of a retrofitted four-room system
to $5,250 with only four hours of installation
from $13,000 for a traditional
hardwired system.

Another Russound initiative is a new
website for dealers and consumers.

While it rolls out these initiatives, Russound
is preparing to ship a wide selection
of new products from now through
the end of the year.

The Russound and vNet plans are
part of a long-term effort by the companies
“to evolve into the modular, netconnected
world” whether using hardwire,
powerline or Wi-Fi as the pipeline
to distribute digital content around the
house, said Michael Stein, research and
technology senior director. In just a few
years, he predicted, “almost any music,
movie or TV show ever produced will
be immediately available” in the home
through a personal area network, local
area network or wide area network.

In the nearer term, the goal is to grow
both brands by leveraging each other’s
strengths, executives said. To grow, Russound
must integrate control of lighting,
thermostats, and other home systems
into its multi-room-audio keypad and
touchscreen controllers, said CEO Charlie
Porritt. “vNet will help us take that
step,” he said, pointing to in-wall vNet
touchscreens that control vNet-branded
wired and wireless lighting-control systems
and other-brand home systems.

In turn, vNet benefits from Russound’s
seasoned management and
contract-manufacturing experience,
said Petro Shimonishi, vNet sales and
marketing VP.

For the past nine months, Russound has
consolidated many vNet business functions
with its own, including accounting
and purchasing, said Russound president
Maureen Baldwin. vNet shipping will also
transition to New Hampshire, added Shimonishi,
but engineering and tech support
will remain in Colorado.

In another transition, vNet has
signed up eight rep firms to date to cover
about 90 percent of U.S. geography
and will hire additional reps in time for
the CEDIA Expo to cover the remainder
of the U.S., Shimonishi said.

With the rep additions, vNet has
been adding dealers in a “slow and
smart” manner, having started with
less than 300 active dealers at the time
of its acquisition and putting on 75 new
dealers since January, Shimonishi said.

For its dealers, vNet plans a variety of
new products, but the brand is dropping
plans for a Wi-Fi-equipped tablet, given
the potential of apps for Wi-Fi-equipped
iPhones and iPads, Shimonishi said. The
brand is also dropping a planned multiroom
video server, in part because of the
rise of on-demand video and because the
server’s audio couldn’t be amplified by the
amps in Vibe touchscreens.