Making Audio Work
"Most people out there," she continues, "are so much more familiar with networking as tying together two PCs and now, as the PC is starting to become more of a home entertainment platform, and more people have movies and photos stored on their PCs, they want to be able to move them around the house using a home network. And that's really the value proposition that we provide, which resonates very well with installers. But we are promoting to those c-tailers who are interested in being on the cutting edge through advertising and by having more 'feet on the street.'
"The audio custom business is still in its infancy," states Friedman. "When my kids go to buy a home in 15 years, they'll expect distributed audio and video in all the primary rooms the same way they expect a DSL or phone line, or plumbing. And because of that, it will change how ubiquitous distributed audio and video will become."
But for now, among the lion's share of consumers, distributed audio remains an educational challenge best - and most profitably - introduced by c-tailers in palatable steps that present one- and two-zone options as a pathway to whole-house treatments, says Lenbrook's Bob Brown. In fact, he adds, selling simpler systems may be the way c-tailers can salvage much of the eroding profitability their cash-and-carry retailing business is suffering.
Says Brown: "What I feel some of our retailers have done is they've gotten so caught up in 'distributed audio,' that the only thing they can think of is the huge contract, the huge sale, and 10 rooms in the house.
"I know a lot of people with money who don't know audio/video," Brown continues. "Show 'em a two-zone system for, maybe, $25,000, and they're wow'ed, they've never heard anything like it. The installation's a day or two, you're out of there, and you have your cash. If you oversell the customer on distributed audio, and you immediately try to get this customer into automating his whole life, it's a year's project, you're collecting cash for a year, it's all receivables, and it can be a trap. The system is more complex and there are always bugs - now you're in Zone Six, and nothing's working. The country is littered with big installations that haven't been paid for, because big clients know how to pay, and how not to pay.