December 2005 Issue


Changes ahead for the home entertainment and control market

From 1991 to 2001, I covered enterprise IT, which is a fancy name for corporate computer networks. Over the course of that decade, I saw a sea change in how businesses handled voice, video and data. Today, I see similar changes heading for the home entertainment and control market. And with those impending changes come the requisite early warnings. When I first started covering IT, corporate networks were largely based on highly secure mainframe computers. These mainframes communicated with dumb terminals at end users' desks, using proprietary networking technologies to do so. PCs were viewed as potentially dangerous interlopers that could taint the otherwise

coNEXTion Systems z600c/z200c In-Ceiling Speakers

By Greg Robinson When I reflect on the various in-ceiling speaker demonstrations I've witnessed, it occurs to me that my post-demo impressions always fall somewhere between "ehh" and "not bad." Reason being, in-ceiling speakers have traditionally filled a niche of convenience or compromise where sound quality is not crucial. Not that there's anything wrong with that—in-ceilings are frequently used for ambience or for distributed audio systems and, in most cases, they can be perfectly adequate. Unfortunately, "adequate" doesn't get my heart racing. That's why I'm encouraged by the zc Series of speakers from coNEXTion Systems. Comprised of six models and promising "zero tools" installation,

From the Heavens to the Home

Think satellite radio is just for cars? Think again: Sirius, about to unleash the unabridged Howard Stern, is looking to C-tailers to bring its offerings to residential users as well. By Audrey Gray Last November, Sirius Satellite Radio posted on its web site a job listing which began with a few, shall we say, atypical career questions such as, "Can you turn classic oral into classic aural?" and ended with this casting call: "The King of All Media needs production wizards to revolutionize radio." The self-proclaimed King is, of course, Howard Stern, the shock jock who will have a full team of producers cranking

Get the Feet Off the Floor

Competition from diverse furniture outlets demands a sharper sales pitch for home theater seating… By Janet Pinkerton In late November, was selling a three-piece home theater sectional in black leather with "power recline" for $2,169.99 (shipping and handling included). offered a Berkline Leather Home Theater Recliner with two straight arms for $999.99. Meanwhile, furniture stores also are targeting home theater seating. La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries, for example, offers its own line of "home theater friendly" products. Faced with such competition, C-tailers are sharpening selling strategies for home theater seating. Lured by furniture's relatively fat margins, C-tailers have learned not to give away

I Bet You'll Find This Amusing?

By Ira Friedman Several weeks ago, the good guys! stores in my neighborhood closed their doors for good. Oh, I'm sorry…I'm mistaken. They didn't close for good—they're reopening as "boutiques" inside those fabulous CompUSA stores. So I walked into my local CompUSA to see the new "good guys! inside" section. It's a few aisles of plasmas and assorted A/V gear, merchandised with the same spectacular attention to detail for which CompUSA is known the world over. After years of the good guys! dominating the A/V market in California, it's come to this: A few shelves of product in the back of a

Media Center Doesn't Meet Our Standards

By Joe Calise To Media Center, or not to Media Center? That's this year's big question. Do we jump on the bandwagon or not? I personally have mixed feelings about it. We wonder, like many C-tailers do, if Windows Media Center is something that our customers will be looking to us to deliver or carry. When I was offered the opportunity to become a dealer for one of the manufacturers that is making its own hardware for the Media Center platform, I took advantage of the opportunity to explore my options and see what Media Center was all about. Let's face it: If

Mitsubishi WD-52628 DLP HDTV

By Ron Goldberg With selling prices on big-screen TVs firmly in free fall, established manufacturers are scrambling to differentiate their products in order to restore profitability to the dealer and offer a tangible value proposition to the consumer. Mitsubishi's new line of 1080p rear-screen projectors emphasize engineering and performance as their trump cards. DESCRIPTION The 52-inch WD-52628, the smallest of Mitsubishi's new line of DLPs, features the company's Plush1080p video processor, which upconverts all incoming signals to the display's native 1920x1080 resolution. The set's generous connectivity options include two HDMI ports, three component video connections, an IEEE 1394 port, a CableCARD slot and

Prepare Yourself

Retail sales managers should be proactive about their customer satisfaction challenges. Here are some tips to get you started. By Steve Honig Many retail sales managers don't discuss or comment on many of the issues that plague them on a daily basis, but give them a structured forum and the spigot will flow. It wasn't until I was asked to discuss some of these issues at a recent sales manager meeting with Home Theater Specialists of America (HTSA) members that this subject opened up. As a sales manager, how much time do you spend putting out fires, arranging loaner product, convincing an extended warranty

Some Thoughts on C-tailing

A Wisconsin dealer talks about the variety of challenges he's faced in his transition to the custom business. By Gary Stein In 1985, when I opened my business, I chose Wassau, Wis., because it was fairly close to my home in Green Bay. At the same time, it was far enough away that I wouldn't directly compete with my previous employer. It wouldn't be fair to open up in his backyard. Instead, I was able to use the same name and the same logo to create a perception of a larger regional company. In Wassau, I also saw holes in the distribution of some

Style Points

As C-tailers compete against other luxury goods dealers, are our products' looks as important as their performance when it comes to making the sale? Depends on whom you ask. By Nancy Klosek For C-tailers, selling luxury-level goods as part of the entertainment package is common practice. However, it's undeniable that how the products look—almost as much as how they're presented, and even how they'll eventually perform—helps determine how well they sell. Witness the success of flat-panel TVs among consumers who don't care so much about picture quality but crave "flat" mostly because it looks so good in their living rooms, even when it's turned

Suite Temptations

Hotels are looking for integrators. Is high-tech hospitality a good gamble? By Audrey Gray Thirty-five floors above the clamorous roundabout that is Columbus Circle, the lobby of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel floats over Manhattan with the serenity of a Kowtow temple. Walls of glass provide guests a bird's eye view of Central Park and its marbled frame of proper penthouses. But on an average afternoon, the lobby's visitors are eschewing the cityscape in favor of their own windows to the world—the LCD screens of their laptops. With room rates of $800 a night at the Mandarin, business-minded guests value a Wi-Fi hotspot at least

The Latest and Greatest

What's new from the leaders in home control and media distribution? By Joe Paone Automation, control and networking companies have been busy introducing new products over the last few months. To wit: Lighting and shade control. Some lighting control vendors are looking to appeal to consumers with existing homes by employing wireless technologies. CentraLite's new RF-based StarLite Wireless Lighting Control System, for example, can handle up to 96 devices, 288 buttons, 512 dimming levels, 50 timed events and 100 scenes. Crestron's new wallmount CLW-DIM1RF infiNET wireless mesh network dimmers are another example of this trend. Lutron introduced a redesigned, color-changeable dimmer for its RadioRA

Turns, Turns, Turns

Strapped for cash? If you cut down on inventory and improve your turnover, you might just free up a good amount. By Robert Ain With all due respect to Pete Seeger and The Byrds, every season is an important time to look at turns—inventory turnover, to be specific. Inventory turns are a subject that everyone talks about and very few actually manage in a disciplined, organized process. At the end of the day, improving inventory turns is the best way to improve cash flow and free up dollars for spending on other revenue-producing parts of your business. For example, let's say that you are

What Business Are You In?

As more of our core products become widely available commodities, C-tailers must rethink and refocus in the face of shrinking margins and well-funded, well-known competition. What follows is a think piece on this topic from a longtime manufacturer's rep. By Doug Henderson The audio/video business has increasingly become a contracting custom installation business. Many dealers and individual salespeople have adopted an approach to sales that seldom or never involves a demonstration, or even much discussion about performance quality. The emphasis instead is on functionality, cosmetics, budget and the control interfaces. Often, the client relationship is based on a referral or a relationship with a

What kind of a year has it been for you?

What kind of a year has it been for you? And why do I want to know? 'Cause I'm 2005, that's why, and my 365-day run is just about history. I'd like to know how I did so I can give the next guy, 2006, a leg up, based on the benefit of my experiences. In general, I wasn't a quiet year, what with all the natural and unnatural disasters and all the troubles overseas. It seemed there was something new to worry about during every one of my weeks—and I'm not even talking about your C-tailing businesses. You know very well, without my

Why Do People Buy?

They don't want products. They want what the products do. By Dave Donald and Jeremy Burkhardt In the sales game, a few presuppositions can cloud the real issue. Many salespeople feel they need more information, knowledge and training on how to sell. Sales seminars are filled with research, analysis and field studies that show how various sales techniques affect the outcome of sales situations. Unfortunately, most of this information is worthless because it doesn't address the most important issue. If you are to become a truly outstanding salesperson, you must possess the answer to the ultimate sales question: Why do people buy? The fact

Will Powerline Plug Installers?

HomePlug and Powerline Communications provide simple connections for complex applications that normally require whole-house wiring. But is the technology really viable? By Cliff Roth Imagine plugging a TiVo or Media Center PC into an electrical outlet and it instantly connects to the internet. Imagine plugging a TV or set-top box into an AC wall outlet in a bedroom, and it instantly and automatically connects to a media server in the living room. Imagine it also instantly connects to the living room cable or satellite box, and displays all these choices as soon as you first turn it on. Does this sound a bit