Russound, vNet Prepare Products, Programs

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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 network.

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.


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