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.

By Julie Jacobson
July 21, 2009
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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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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