November 2004 Issue


Control4 Wants Home Automation for the Masses

"If you're going to sell to the rich, you're going to live with the masses. If you're going to sell to the masses, you've got a much better shot at living with the rich." So says Control4 CEO Will West, detailing the company's plan for tapping into the growth of the $400 million, new construction/"rich people" home automation market and broadening it into a $40 billion new and retrofit market with a wider demographic. West, Chief Technology Officer Eric Smith and Vice President of Marketing Mark Morgan co-founded Control4 in March 2003. West and Smith founded PHAST in 1995, developing one of the

Does Brand Matter?

Of course, brand matters—but whose brand, and to whom? Is the brand that matters the nameplate at the bottom of the display frame or the company name at the top of the installation invoice? Come to think of it, what is brand? How do you define it? What is it supposed to evoke? Something as abstract as an impression or an aspiration? Or something as nuts and bolts as timely shipping and a competent support center? Whose brand preference is the most important factor? Is it the customer/end-user who lives with the purchase? Or is it the C-tailer, which might choose brands based on

Latest Spin on an Old Idea

The microdisplay wars are heating up. Over the past several years, DLP technology has gained major ground over LCD, and now some startup companies say they'll be making their own versions of DLP (which, so far, is only made by Texas Instruments). An even newer microdisplay technology—LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon)—appeared to be gaining momentum a year ago, but most recently both Philips and Intel announced they'd stopped work on their LCoS chips. These newer microdisplay technologies may be grabbing all of the headlines, but meanwhile, the original microdisplay technology—LCD—keeps improving, and is now giving DLP serious competition, both for value and quality. That

Moving Beyond Jargon

Scare tactics only work some of the time, like during political elections or the big game. But in custom retailing, jargon never works. Instead, when Mr. or Ms. Jones walks into a showroom knowing that a home theater system is atop their wish lists, most sales reps have two options: Explain the nitty gritty (that is, if the customer is well-informed), or show what the technology can do. When it comes down to introducing how a PC, for instance, can stream music throughout a home, demos win hands-down, especially when most clients don't know S-Video from an S-curve. When it comes to sales, however,

PC vs. CE?

Last month, Microsoft made its largest push yet to gain a foothold in the living rooms and entertainment centers of America with its announcement of Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, along with complimentary products and services from third parties such as Dell, HP, Gateway, Toshiba's Digital Products Division, D-Link, Linksys and Netgear. The press, the analysts and the hardcore geeks went into their predictable tizzies—and granted, the sight of Bill Gates lounging with Queen Latifah at the press conference was truly mind-bending. But mainstream America, distracted by presidential politics, baseball playoffs, everyday life and its iPods, barely shrugged. However, the products that emerge

The Spirit Inside the Machine

Contrary to myth, convergence is not the union of consumer electronics and computer hardware. It's a far more complex blend of CE, computing, Internet connectivity, software that entertains, and software that organizes. That last element is the unseen whirlwind inside the revolution. It was also, until recently, the element that was least evolved. That's begun to change, and Gracenote is at the forefront of that change. The Emeryville, Calif.-based company is best known as the heir to CDDB, the service that enriches burned CD-Rs or ripped music files with track and other data. CDDB is virtually everywhere—in the iPod and other compressed-music players, online