December 2007 Issue

 

Another Year to Remember

I remember when HDTV was just a blip on the radar at the Consumer Electronics Show—a $20,000 blip in most cases. The canned content displayed on those early sets (from Sencore hard drive servers) look good on those displays, but not nearly as good as what we now get daily from our local broadcasters or cable. Now, seven years into the real HDTV revolution, so much has changed. More than 16 million HDTV products have been sold. The country is blanketed with signal coverage from multiple sources, and we’re even in the mists of a new format war. So there are old and


Apples, Oranges & ‘Green’ Electronics

Every day, companies small and large announce a revolutionary “green” product or technology. Yet how is a consumer, dealer or competitor manufacturer able to verify and compare such claims? “Right now, there’s not an agreed-upon industry standard” by which to evaluate consumer technology products on multiple sustainable criteria, says Gregg Chason, vice president of industry affairs and relations at Philips. Major CE manufacturers, like Philips, Panasonic and Sony, have long operated environmental programs influencing both company products and processes, and they are increasing intensity. For example, since 1998, Philips’ businesses operate under an EcoVision program that sets four-year targets for environmental improvement


Change Is in the Air

I had a pleasant conversation with a West Coast custom retailer recently. Black Friday was about five days old, and according to this year, things were looking spectacular. First, consider that he was in a market heavily saturated by both high-end installers and mid- and low-level CE retailers. A year earlier the company was banking its business on flat panel TVs. We all know where that was probably going, and this dealer too saw the writing on the wall—it’s tough for a high-end dealer to compete in what has become a commodity category when the customer base can’t tell the difference, especially if the


Crunch Time for C-tailers

The custom industry is unused to a soft market, but custom retail execs interviewed in September and October reported that the rich are still spending, but that the mid-to-lower custom markets are hurting from a variety of economic conditions. The impact of the housing bust, subprime mortgage foreclosures and the credit crunch continues to vary with the local market and with the local economy. Jim Ristow, executive director of the Home Entertainment Source buying group, in September said, “The housing market and credit both are affecting business to varying degrees. On the ultra high end, it’s not affecting it as much. Those


ESC of the Year: Logic Integration

Logic Integration CEO Shawn Hansson credits his company’s success to one core component of the company’s business strategy: Excellent customer service. All Logic Integration projects are meticulously planned out in advance to ensure a seamless client experience from start to finish. “Our goal every time is to get in and get out quickly,” said Hansson. All systems are built and programmed in-shop so the project is ready to go when the team arrives onsite. Technicians then work in cluster teams to complete the install quickly and neatly. A consistent system for customer service has kept Logic Integration in good standing with a reliable base


Expanding the Network

During CEDIA Expo in Denver this last September, Denon America unveiled several new products demonstrating its commitment to the custom integrator and the growing demand for whole-house networking. Jeff Talmadge, director of product development and systems integration at Denon America, explained that the company is expanding its offerings to the CI community with more applications and options than ever before. Talmadge said that both Denon and its dealers have noticed an increase in requests for integration of music servers, iPods and computer hard drives. While a wide variety of networking solutions were already available, Denon saw an opportunity to develop a much simpler


Frequently Asked Questions

What kinds of TVs are HDTVs? All new TVs are now DTVs as per the FCC mandate that all new TVs with tuners must have a DTV tuner. High-definition TVs (widescreen DTVs with resolution of 720p and up) can be standard direct-view, LCD, plasma, rear-projection units or front projectors that require separate screens. HDTV refers to resolution—the horizontal lines that can be displayed on the screen—not the technology upon which the TV is based. Is my current TV obsolete? No. The FCC has mandated that all TV broadcasts be converted to digital by February 17, 2009. Even so, when all broadcasts are digital,


Grooming for the Gourmet Customer

When it comes to custom installation clients, as with anything that can be measured by a yardstick made of dollars, there are the “rich,” the “very rich” and the “ultra-rich.” And within that top tier, there are the Jed Clampetts and the Brooke Astors—and everything in between. Integrators who have opted to make the bulk of their living by taking the proper read on what category heading an ultra-rich client belongs under—and then catering to that customer’s needs in just the right way—are still a relatively rare breed. But while not everyone is cut out for working the upper-echelon client, this type of installation


HDTV Facts

The digital revolution is full on, and digital television is leading the charge. What started as a luxury only for the well-off, digital and high definition television is now accessible and affordable for most U.S. households. Digital TV refers to any broadcast sent in digital format. HDTV is a subset of digital TV that refers to a digital signal at high resolution. All HDTV is digital, but not all digital TV is HDTV. HDTV is Widescreen All HDTV programs and new HDTV sets display in widescreen, or 16:9 aspect ratio. When viewed on a standard TV screen (4:3 aspect ratio), HDTV programs


High Definition Disc: The Next DVD

We are well into the second year of the biggest format war to hit the consumer electronics business since VHS and BETA. That said, it means manufacturers are working extra hard to outdo each other in quality and innovation, not to mention price. HD DVD and Blu-Ray are the two new high definition next generation disc formats that are poised to replace the standard DVD. They both offer visual and audible enhancements over the old fashioned DVDs. The first HD DVD players were launched last year by Toshiba and RCA, while Samsung launched the first Blu-ray player, followed by several other manufacturers including Sony,


Improve your communications; improve your performance

“The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.” -George Bernard Shaw A few months back I wrote a column about managing your people to achieve success by following five basic steps. As you’ll recall, the five steps include: 1. Setting meaningful goals 2. Communicating, communicating, communicating 3. Measuring and monitoring results 4. Stacking your team with winners 5. Celebrating success This month, I’d like to go into a little more detail on the communications part. After all, it’s something that sounds simple, but in practice is very difficult to do. As the quote from George Bernard Shaw highlights, often we think we’re communicating when


In Control

HAI Thomas Pickral Jr. HAI business development manager To what do you attribute the recent growth in interest in the home automation category? Do you think this kind of growth is sustainable? The recent growth in the home automation category is a result of two things, the increased demand from home owners, and the desire of the custom installer to expand into more lucrative segments of the business. Homeowners are more and more aware of what is available in the home automation category and are increasingly asking their custom installers for more information about these products. A lot of people are starting


Joe Perfito

CustomRetailer: You recently introduced whole new lines of high-end, high-performance cables—the Series 9 and 7. Talk a bit about the impetus behind creating new products to represent the high end of the Tributaries cable range. What benefits do the new lines offer to the custom integrator? Perfito: The impetus was that we discovered some technology that would give us a higher-performance product. In many cases, cable manufacturers re-hash existing product in different colors or different jackets. We wanted to do something that actually improved product performance. On the video side, an idea we found intriguing was a new technology we discovered that keeps


Meet the CustomRetailer Dream Team!

News travels fast! The big news is the announcement of our new Editor-in-Chief for CustomRetailer, Ms. Maureen Jenson. For me, this is a dream come true. Many of you already know Maureen, one of our industry’s most accomplished editors. Her leadership and style are legendary from our years together at Audio Video Interiors in the 90s right on through to her most recent role as the editor of Home Theater Magazine. If you don’t already know Maureen, you will have lots of opportunities to get to know her through the pages of CustomRetailer, on the Web at www.customretailer.net, through our webinar programs,


New Rooms, New Options

The home theater furniture market is broadening with the proliferation of flat-panel TVs. As flat panel TVs are no longer limited to the high-end user or to the great room, vendors are designing a/v furniture for a wider variety of living situations—whether it be renters who can’t wall-mount their plasmas, or home owners buying second and third flat-panels for other areas of their home. “Not everyone is in a position to mount the TV on a wall,” said Sanus Systems founder and general manager Jim Wohlford. At CES, Sanus will introduce its Vertical Foundations line, which features a spine-like pillar attached to


Plasma Facts and Fiction

Flat panel TVs are among the most popular styles of HDTVs today, but both are subject to myths and misunderstands. Here are a few common misconceptions with today’s flat panels. Plasma TVs are filled with gas, and need to be recharged every few years. Myth. Plasma TVs do contain a very small amount of plasma gas, but they don’t leak and never need to be refilled. All flat panel TVs are HDTVs. Myth. If it is a widescreen model with a resolution of 720p or higher, then it can display HDTV signals. TVs with a resolution of 480p are know


Rules for Labeling Analog Television Sets

In compliance with a May 2007 ruling from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), retailers are now required to place visible alerts at point-of-sale on all analog-only television sets. These sets will require a digital-to-analog converter box to receive over-the-air broadcast signals after the February 17, 2009 transition to all-digital broadcasts. As of March 1, 2007, all television receivers shipped in interstate commerce or imported into the United States must contain a digital tuner. However, retailers may continue to sell analog-only television equipment from existing inventory. Retailers must inform consumers by prominently displaying the following consumer alert if they are


Selling HDTV

Anyone interested in the quality of their entertainment is a potential HDTV customer. Movie buffs and sports buffs will instantly recognize how HDTV can add to their viewing experience. >>> Use comparisons: Nothing sells HDTV better than comparing it to standard analog TV. A side by side comparison can be a dealer’s best tool. >>> Use comparisons: ESPN, HDnet, HBO all can be used for great demo material. It’s important to show content that customers can see in their homes rather than demonstration loops. Blu-ray and HD DVD movies make great demonstration material, especially if you offer those same movies for


The Differing Types of Televisions

What kind of HDTV you buy depends on your needs. Here’s a rundown of the current display technologies. Each one has benefits and limitations, so make your choice based on the features most important to you. CRT Direct-view TVs consist of one large CRT tube coated on the front with phosphors. Rear-projection CRT TVs use three tubes, one each for red, blue and green. Pros The CRT offers the best black level and contrast of all video technologies. Rear-projection CRT TVs are a real bargain right now. Cons Rear-projection CRT TVs are not very bright, so you need a dark room. They look


The Feminine Side

Sorry, guys, but you still don’t get it. It may be the 21st Century, but a recently released study by advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi found that when it comes to selling consumer electronics to women, the industry is still in the dark ages. The survey found that the CE industry is missing millions of sales dollars to “Lady Geeks” because a third of them don’t feel confident enough to ask questions about the products they crave in retailers they described as “reeking of the scent of men.” Ouch. It’s not the products that the women surveyed found offensive, but the approach made


You Have a Rep to Protect

“You say your mother told you all that I could give you was a reputation.” —Billy Joel Remember these lyrics….The ‘I’ is your customer and the ‘mother’ is me. And what I am telling you is that your customers give you a reputation. This reputation gives you a brand in your market. Your reputation is not only the price, performance and product that you sell, it is also the quality and the look of the install. With quality, please note that it is not only the audio and video performance, but also how the installation actually looks in the equipment room, the walls, anywhere