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Crestron’s Low-Cost Prodigy to Compete with Control4

New home automation system from Crestron starts at about $700, offers wizard-based programming, is not compatible with other Crestron products


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A Crestron Prodigy media controller and two-way remote starts at about $700.

Crestron is working on a "Control4 buster" called Prodigy (press release).

Crestron began talking about this very inexpensive home automation system about two years ago, most notably when Tweeter was still in business. Now the cat's out of the bag in a public forum at RemoteCentral.com.

A dealer calling himself "Vincent Delpino" notes on the RC forums:

Ok so I guess Crestron wants to compete with Control 4 and is going to release a new line of product that is dirt cheap with wizard based programming. This line will only be compatible with other products in the line and not any other Crestron gear. This is a little baffling to me and to give you an idea of the pricing an MLX-2 Prodigy model will retail for around $200-$300 with 2 way communication. They will also have a 4" in wall touch panel for $700

Dealers report that Crestron reps are saying the company wants to "wipe Control4 off the planet."

Crestron marketing director Vincent Bruno says Crestron wants to "broaden our market reach and compete with other products in our space."

But he firmly denies that the company wants to obliterate Control4. "That's not the company's position," he says.

So why now? "Honestly, because we could," says Bruno.

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Click to enlarge.

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UPDATE: Prodigy back panel. The company says, yes it is compatible with third-party subsystems but declines to comment further.

Software development has made wizard-based programming much more practical, he explains. "The user can program it themselves. We're going to get them [dealers] in and out of a job quickly. It expands their reach beyond just high-end homes."

Market for Crestron Prodigy


Crestron is easily the most popular home control system among the CE Pro 100. Some 62 percent of the country's largest integrators use Crestron. But Control4, only a few years old, is creeping up in the ranks, with 28 percent of the CE Pro 100 selling the line.

It's no secret that Control4's rise in the home control business has rankled Crestron management. Crestron's first attempt at a more downscale system, Adagio, is still not cheap enough to compete.

A Control4 automation system starts at about $300 for what amounts to a feature-rich universal remote control solution. Add a couple hundred dollars and you can get a system with a two-way ZigBee remote including metadata.

The Prodigy price points will be very similar. A "media controller" with remote will list for about $700. An in-wall touchscreen costs less than $700. Wireless dimmers will sell for about $99. The system supports up to 16 zones of audio (not wireless).

Programming is wizard-based via a program called Composer.

Prodigy does employ ZigBee wireless technology but the system is not compatible with other Crestron lines.

Several high-end Crestron dealers such as Electronic Design Group, Piscataway, N.J., and Audio Advisors, West Palm Beach, Fla., have started new divisions for more down-scale installations. They are using Control4.

The principals of both companies say they have not been approached by Crestron regarding Prodigy.

With so many loyal Crestron dealers, the company should have an enthusiastic audience for a more mass-market solution.

It would be a good move for Crestron, I think.

The company has the customer base and credibility to penetrate the quasi-masses. Clearly, many Crestron dealers are interested in a more high-volume option. Why shouldn't Crestron provide it?

One Crestron dealer tells me: "It [Prodigy] makes perfect sense. It will continue to become more difficult to sell a $100k Crestron system to someone who wants a basic feature set. I would love to have reliable Crestron hardware as the back end to an entry level system."

As always, there will be bickering among Crestron's core dealer base (What? You're going to open up the market to trunk slammers?!), but traditional Crestron dealers shouldn't fret. If, as expected, Prodigy is not upgradeable to a full-blown Crestron system, then the line should not cannibalize sales of Crestron's flagship high-end solutions.

Prodigy will be available to all Crestron dealers, but the company also is "looking to expand our dealership," Bruno says. "Not all dealers want to play at this level."

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Article Topics

News · Product News · Home Automation and Control · Control Systems · CEDIA · Home Automation · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson. [More by Julie Jacobson]

77 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Ranger Home  on  07/21  at  06:30 AM

I have long been a NON fan of Crestron and their costs. This may change the game on that opinion. While Control4 has gained market share, we have yet to jump on their bandwagon.

Will be interesting to see the “qualifications”  to be a Prodigy dealer as well as learn how easily this new line interfaces with third party apps and products.

Posted by ShowMe  on  07/21  at  07:28 AM

Julie,

How did you get screens of the wizard?

Posted by AccessNetworks  on  07/21  at  07:44 AM

One cannot help but compare this to what Cisco Systems did with their Express line of products. Cisco needed something that is low cost, easy to configure and at the same time will be biting into the competition - so they came out with the Express line that is low-cost, can be configured with a GUI (Cisco never shined when it comes to GUI) and has very limited capabilities and cannot work with other Cisco products.

The line has little success (at least with us), mostly because of all the reasons it was created: (a) Lack of features and (b) ability to upgrade (i.e. inter-operability with other Cisco products) and (c) the GUI gives you the basic configuration but you still need a Cisco Engineer to configure a Cisco product (not to mention troubleshoot it). I am always the one to root for the underdog, but let’s see what Crestron does…

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  07/21  at  07:54 AM

@ShowMe, the kind folks at Crestron sent the screen shots to me.

Posted by mike  on  07/21  at  08:08 AM

Interesting play for the market, curious if crestron will go consumer like C4 intends to do?  How does CEPRO feel about Best Buy investing in Control4 last week? Seems that C4 is caterring to big box again!

Posted by jbrown  on  07/21  at  09:32 AM

Control4’s market strategy has always been to sell as many boxes to as many people as possible. They have not hidden that. The Best Buy deal should surprise no one. Part of their original plan was for Home Depot to sell it.

And the only way Prodigy will be able to compete is with a similar strategy. So as a long-time Crestron dealer, I hope they market Prodigy differently and they control distribution well.

And by that I mean I don’t want some newbie who sells a lot of Prodigy trying to figure out his first real Crestron system on a $200k job that he under-cut me on by 10% just to close the deal. Then I have to come back later and try to clean it up after a colossal failure just so Crestron doesn’t get a bad name in my market. Meanwhile the real loser is the client who paid twice.

That said, I think if it’s handled properly, Prodigy could be great for Crestron and customers. Competition always makes the products better. So what we may wind up with is better products from Control4 and more options for Crestron dealers to compete against them.

Posted by Kevin  on  07/21  at  09:48 AM

bring it.. i go head to head with full blown Crestron systems all the time..

Posted by Trevor Orrick  on  07/21  at  10:04 AM

Kudos to Creston!  They need something to compete with Control4 at this level.  Just wish they could sexy it up a little.  In a world of Iphones it looks like HAI/Universal Remote on Steroids.  Is it just me or is RTI, AMX and Savant the only players who care what the hardware looks like.

Posted by ShowMe  on  07/21  at  10:11 AM

Julie,

Since you have the hook-up… See what you can find out about the “coming-soon” Pro3 wink

Thanks,
ShowMe

Posted by Greg Pass  on  07/21  at  10:25 AM

This is exactally what Crestron dealers that don’t also do Control4 are looking for. It will be a very welcome product line to our mix, especially during this economy.

Posted by Jim Sweeney  on  07/21  at  11:07 AM

You might also note that the Crestron Adagio line also has a wizard based software programming interface option.  It is called interestingly enough “Composer”.  The results for dealers (at least some dealers) who attempted to sell the system with a lower cost “out of the box” feature set was mixed at best.

Posted by matt172001  on  07/21  at  11:08 AM

Ugly!

Posted by boogersonyourBD  on  07/21  at  11:14 AM

Let’s see how well that MLX-2 can be configured in the Prodigy software. Could make or break the entire prodigy line there. Did anyone else notice the Cresnet connector in the picture? But not active?

Posted by Jake E.  on  07/21  at  11:26 AM

I agree with Trevor, you take the time to make a whole new product line with new plastics and molds and Crestron makes it boxy and non attractive.

I am all for spreading the love and having people enjoy a fully automated home at a common mans price and to have a model like Control4 to follow makes it easy for Crestron.

To not have it compatible with other Crestron product lines seems a bit weird to me.

I am anxious to see how well the integrate with other third party devices as simple as an IR or serial based device. Will it be as easy as Control4? Will it be on the network so that we can control devices over IP? Will the dealer be able to customize the GUI to what they want? Will it fit in the retrofit market or still have propriety wiring? I guess all these questions can be answered at CEDIA.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  07/21  at  11:31 AM

I don’t think it’s odd for Prodigy not to be compatible with legacy Crestron. Look at Lutron—4 different RF protocols (Homeworks, Aurora, Radio Ra, Radio Ra SR), none of which is compatible with the other. Different products for different niches.

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