Surviving CEDIA: Amazon "Let's Work Together", LG Courts Integrators, HiFi Audio is Booming
Day two of CEDIA is in the books and there are a ton of new announcements and influential keynotes making some buzz on the show floor. Here is our recap of some of the highlights from the second day of the 2017 CEDIA convention.
Amazon Really, Really Wants to Play Nice
Yesterday, our press coverage involved the thoughts of Origin Acoustics Jeremy Burkhardt and his big bet on Alexa. Today, Sarah Zenz, General Manager of Amazon’s Smart Home Services business, took the stage to echo his message, explaining how Amazon wants to make money with the CI community.
"Let's work together," Zenz said. "There is a mass market who want these technology solutions, not just the top 5% who can afford it."
Zenz covered a lot of the new avenues Amazon Smart Home Services will present to dealers, namely giving advanced certified technicians - ESC-T, EST-N, ESC-D - referrals if Amazon techs can't help a client. The logic is that Amazon, to no surprise, services a ton of customers that aren't spending in the mid-range $10,000 - $30,000 market on theaters. The market for smaller jobs is something the CEDIA community has struggled to really capitalize on.
They also want to show off the 2,700 plus CEDIA dealers with a CEDIA member showcase, a move that could spotlight custom installers and shift the industry as a whole. Consumers would be able to browse CEDIA members work and more importantly educate themselves on the benefits of working with a professional.
Burkhardt took a brief moment to reiterate his points from yesterday as well, noting that this is the first opportunity for dealers to capitalize on the dot. He notes any hesitations are reminiscent of the iPod rise to fame, stating it's time to embrace or fall behind.
It's all starting to feel like an "if you can't beat them, join them" situation except both parties have extended the olive branch.
"This isn't an inflection point," Burkhardt said. "This is an entire change in the business."
LG "Looking to Make a Big Bang in the CI Market"
LG came to CEDIA 2017 in San Diego intent on showcasing its full lineup of OLED consumer and commercial screens as well as a slate of new programs designed to bolster its support of the integrators that sell them.
Tim Alessi, LG’s senior director, home entertainment product marketing, said the company is reorganizing its channel sales force, customizing programs and working more closely with distributors, with the goal of being Number One in this channel by 2020. “We’re looking to make a big bang in the CI market,” he said.
RTI Focuses on Foundational Issues
It takes a lot of courage to admit mistakes, it takes even more to hold a press conference about it.
Early in the morning, the newly appointed CEO Ed McConaghay talked about all the big changes coming to the control and automation manufacturer, with many of them focused on themselves. They have hired two new senior design and programming consultants, appointed Mark Derus to CFO, Mark Klayum as Logistics Manager, and promised to only talk about a product if it is ready to ship in hopes to remove some of the blemishes RTI may have acquired over the years.
"RTI is celebrating its 25th anniversary," McConaghay said. "Our new strategy is to build infrastructure underneath RTI that is scalable, and worldwide so we can be here for another 25 years."
Of course, RTI brought all of their new tech, including a special edition white matte T3x remote, and a C2K1 starter kit that has a handful of "hidden messages." According to McConaghay, that includes a new warranty policy that extends the duration to three years, and a RTiPanel license that works with every device and has unlimited uses. The starter kit also includes a company’s XP-3 control processor and a Pro Control’s Pro.24.z remote
It's a step in the right direction and an honest one that admits that there are fixable issues within the company. There is a lot of respect in taking an honest approach when dealers look to work with certain companies, and RTI is certainly hoping to change the entire dealer experience by "doubling down" on the experience from every angle.
Stream the Studio: Consumers Demand Better Audio Experience, Dealers Can Deliver
Stream the Studio took the stage to deliver one simple message - CEDIA members are primed to hear the message about high-fidelity audio, but it takes some time to deliver.
Senior Director for Digitial Entertainment Group Marc Finer threaded a narrative of just how much consumers have begun to demand better audio. He cites two CTA studies that found 90% of consumers cited sound quality as the most important factor and that of the four main segments of audio consumers, 47% look for the best sound as a primary motivator. Finer also noted that desire-based consumers also demand a higher quality sound and audiophiles want a sound that replicates studio quality.
"All of this created a growing market that is steadily growing," Finer said. "It is about delivering high-resolution audio the way an artist intended it to be."
Finer revealed that Gen Z is quickly becoming the most influential demographic, behind the notorious millennial, because of their stress on experiences. He then invited speakers from MQA, roon, and UMG to explore the capabilities of nifty metadata manipulations that gave consumers the power to see virtual albums, investigate artist influences, and control individual layers of music, all in real time in the highest possible quality.
Finally, Finer invited ProSource president and CEO David Workman about how important an experience can be and how complacency for inferior products can stunt an industry.
"The competitive threat isn't other dealers, it isn't even Amazon," Workman said. "The real problem is an experience becoming a commodity but solutions never do and we provide solutions."
He echoes Dave Pedigo, VP of Emerging Technologies, who notes that "hi-res audio combined with CEDIA expertise will allow home owners to experience music the way the producers and artists intended."
CEDIA 2017 Best New Product Winners, Honors Alex Capecelatro as Young Professional of the Year
Formally inducted on the USS Midway the night before, recipients were given their physical awards on the show floor. The winning products were selected by a panel of home technology professional judges and were selected for the innovation they represent and the value they provide to both the integrator's business and the end user.
Alongside product recognition, CEO of Josh.ai Alex Capecelatro was honored as Young Professional of the year.