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Technology Impact On Installers

TWICE:What new technologies will have the biggest impact on installers’ business?

Burkhardt: Everyone loves trying to find a business model to leverage the custom installation market. The reality is that technology may eliminate some of the installation process. However, the end-user still must interact with a qualified individual, providing other opportunities. For example, our multizone controller allows anyone to dock their iPod in our in-wall SoundSource. Consumers can then listen to it everywhere in their house through our in-wall and in-ceiling speakers.

Detmer: Digital media storage and retrieval will drive demand for distributed entertainment throughout the home.

Skaf: As part our strategy to reach a broader base of customers in the upper end of the mass market, AMX is developing solutions that take the cost out of programming, enabling us to offer our products at a lower cost to a broader market. All of our latest product lines utilize standard-based communication networks including Ethernet and the Internet (using TCP/IP protocols). We are leveraging standards-based technology to create solutions such as our recently introduced Wireless Access Point, which open new revenue opportunities by allowing us to serve an expanded customer base.

We are focused on wireless because we see wireless-based communications in the home as the key to driving volume into homes that we would otherwise have been unable to satisfy. Wireless is quick to install, gets the user to any point in the room, and has become relatively cheap to deploy.

Also making a big impact on installers is the increase in digital media adoption in the home. AMX recognizes that CD/DVD racks, jukeboxes, and PCs are no longer the most practical platform for storing and accessing large quantities of digital media. To address this need, AMX launched MAX, a digital content server line that stores, manages, and distributes large amounts of CD and DVD content. Incorporating terabytes of storage capabilities, MAX users can build and control their library of CDs and DVDs with ease and instantly play the stored discs simultaneously in 25 different zones. After only being introduced a year ago, this powerful product has generated enormous interest from our installers.

Green: There are a couple of areas where we’ll see continued innovation that promise great future growth. The first of these is the development of more advanced, more human-centric control systems. With industry products becoming more and more sophisticated, it becomes a tremendous challenge to devise control systems that end-users find intuitive and easy-to-use. Better yet, systems will allow future system reconfigurations incorporating new hardware, but also usability input, to adjust services to the end-user in ways that increase their ease of use and allow them to maximize their enjoyment and comfort with the system.

The other related area where we’ll see continued development is in technology adapting to the consumer rather than the current system which forces the user must adapt to multiple, sometimes competing systems. Motorola, for example, has a concept called “Seamless Mobility” in which the user can move between home and car and business with his technology systems adapting to his needs and desires. As these types of systems develop, they will stimulate a whole new level of demand with consumers.

Starkey: Digital technologies that bring easy access to music and movies seem to be the next wave. Every-room access to this content is where consumers and vendors alike want to get to.

Lepper:Open-source, IP-based communication and control will allow powerful integrated systems to be programmed with less effort and more reliability at lower prices. We’ll see quite sophisticated systems available at prices that reach a much broader audience. Some people might worry that this development will undermine their business models. I don’t think so. There’s a shortage of programmers who are experienced enough to handle the complication of our current systems. Getting rid of the complication created by incompatibilities and proprietary systems will free these people up to work on more projects in a year. Installers are still making most of their gross profit on product sales. More projects mean more gear delivered.

Which future will actually happen, the PC-centric entertainment system or the TV-centric one? Both, but a lot more money will be made in the latter.

Witten: We see the integration of iPod as a source component in distributed audio as an enormous opportunity. In November we just began to ship our first in-wall docking station for the iPod. It is called iPort and allows our installers to easily integrate iPods into their customers’ systems. This has been the number one request made to all of our installers.