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Fuze to OEM Media Center Software for Whole-House Applications

Rock-solid Media Center-based platform, including multirooom audio functionality, will now be available to third-party PC makers.


At EHX Spring, Fuze seemed to get more attention for its Media Centric platform (above) than its clever audio distribution system (keypad below).

Fuze Media, creator of a Media Center based whole-home audio system, now plans to OEM its core software to other manufacturers.

When I first discovered Fuze last August, I was awed by the company's clever way of distributing Media Center-based audio throughout the house, without the need for a third-party multiroom audio system. It was a first.

But Fuze discovered recently at the Spring Electronic House Expo that dealers and manufacturers alike were more impressed with Fuze's tweaks to Media Center that enable the machine to operate more as a dedicated media machine -- the type that CE pros are accustomed to.

"We're the only guys with a locked-down version of Media Center," said Fuze's Steve Cross at EHX. (Sure, Niveus, Inteset and others would dispute that claim.)

"I think it is in our genealogy, coming from OnCommand."

OnCommand, the Fuze team's former employer, is best known for its rock-solid on-demand media service for the hospitality industry.

Media Center that isn't a Media Center

Fuze Media kicked and screamed when I tried to call its product a "Media Center" last year. When I insisted it was in fact a Vista Media Center, marketing director Ted Archer explained:

We are based on Vista and are technically a “Windows Media Center.” However, we say that we're NOT a Media Center for three key reasons.

First, we don't use their UI [user interface].

Second, the user NEVER has access to the desktop, which is something that enhances the reliability on our end. This enables us to eliminate the opportunity to download viruses, etc.

Finally, our implementation includes true whole-home capability (including built-in whole-home audio, which is something that Media Center doesn't deliver).

While these three points might seem like minor issues, they really aren't. What they add up to is reliability and greater whole-home capability. Media Center was designed as a single location system with extender capability -- but no built-in multizone audio. Our system does have built-in whole-home capability (audio included).

So, while you are technically correct that we are Vista/MCE-based, we'd prefer to be known as the system that delivers on the promises of Media Center -- not another Media Center implementation that delivers a suboptimal consumer experience.

And that is the gist of what Fuze is selling to other manufacturers: the benefits of Media Center (electronic programming guide, online services, content management) without the liabilities (PC wrapper, no multiroom audio interface, pop-ups and other PC quirks, etc.).

OEM Offering

Previously, Fuze's software was available only on its own PC hardware, OEMed by Velocity Micro.

Now, the company says that it is "negotiating with a number of companies" to enable the
software to be installed on other manufacturers' multimedia devices.

"To best support its OEMs," Fuze says, the company will "deliver a host of features that leverage industry cross-platform standards. These include web browsers for audio control, Microsoft v2 Media Center Extenders, standard audio distribution options, TCP/IP control protocols, and UPB audio control."

OEMs also receive access to FuzeTrace software for monitoring system health, simplified installation tools, and level two support. They also have the option of customizing features and product appearance for branding purposes.

The agreement marks a strategic shift for Fuze, and the company believes it has proved its concept after two years of field deployments.

Even so, Fuze insists it will still serve the custom channel.

"We are NOT abandoning the integrator market," says Archer.

"Our demand in this channel continues to grow, and we will support the channel and our installed base moving forward. This licensing decision has been a long-term objective for us so that we can expand our reach, get our core value more broadly disseminated, and drastically reduce prices for these types of systems moving forward."

Fuze's OEM licenses will support entire whole-home systems so that OEMs and customers will not incur additional per-device fees.

The company expects its first agreements to close in mid-2008.

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Article Topics

News · Distributed Audio · Media Center · 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]


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