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Savant to Discontinue Dedicated Touchpanels

CEO Bob Madonna says legacy touchpanels can't compete with the iPad.


Savant CEO Bob Madonna cited the 3 million iPads sold in 80 days, comparing that to the estimated 1 million touchpanels the custom industry has sold in more than 40 years.

Calling the thirst for the Apple iPad a "feeding frenzy," Savant is discontinuing several of its dedicated touchpanel lines.

The company will phase out its 5-, 7-, 9- and 12-inch touchpanel lines, replacing them all with the iPad. Savant will continue to make its 18- and 24-inch panels, which are primarily for commercial applications. CEO Bob Madonna cited the 3 million iPads Apple sold in 80 days, comparing that to the estimated 1 million touchpanels the entire custom industry has sold in more than 40 years.

"I don't believe the legacy touchpanels of the past will compete [with the iPad] … even our own," said Madonna. "That's why the iPad will replace many of our own touchpanels. iPad is not only revolutionary, it's technically superior and accepted by end users, which is critically important. Is the interface less expensive? Yes. But it will create enormous market demand."

"This industry could potentially grow by orders of magnitude. It's a huge opportunity and we need to do it together," Madonna added.

Madonna made the announcement at Savant's fourth annual dealer conference in New York City, where more than 240 integrators were in attendance, the highest attendance the company has ever had, according to president Jim Carroll. Savant also unveiled several new products, a new 5,000-square-foot extension to its existing 3,000-square-foot experience center in Manhattan, and named its Rosie Red Carpet awards highlighting the best installations using Savant products.

Piggybacking on iPad

Savant has spent four years developing a dealer base around its Rosie Apple-based whole-house control system. Savant thinks the demand for iPads has put Savant in a strong position in terms of technology and mindshare.

"Apple is basically teaching millions of consumers how to use touchpanels, and every one of them can run home automation," Madonna said. "We started this company back in 2005 to change the industry with a new business model. With Blueprint [the company's design software that enables dealers to program systems quickly] and Apple, we have brought together the keys to success for this industry."

Madonna said that because Savant does all its programming in Apple, its applications run faster. He also pointed out that the iPad screen is "totally customizable. It's not true what the competitors are saying. All the buttons, colors, etc. can be changed without writing code," he adds. So far, Savant has had 800-900 downloads of its $9.99 Savant iPad demo app.

New Products

Product announcements at the conference included:
  • An "overhauling" of its current iPhone app to allow landscape and portrait modes
  • TrueImage touchpanel design is now available on the iPad
  • Several iPad in-wall and desktop docking stations
  • An in-wall iPod Touch docking station (MSRP $200) that allows for both portrait and landscape modes
  • The integration of Hulu, Boxee, Plex and other streaming media sources into the Savant on-screen display (OSD) for TVs
  • The incorporation of the new Mac Mini computer as the new engine for Savant home automation
  • The new Rosie MSC 24SE matrix switcher (MSRP $10,000) that can support up to 12 OSDs, 12 card slots, a hot swappable fan tray and optional redundant dual power supplies
  • A line of HDMI extenders that will run Cat 5 up to 330 feet (MSRP $700) and a fiber extender (MSRP $1,700) that will run signals up to 1,000 feet
  • Two video processing cards. One is a scaler module ($2,400) and the other is a less expensive video processor for the OSD ($3,600). All cards will now come with locking HDMI connectors
  • Two Touch TVs, an 18-inch version ($8,000 MSRP) and a 24-inch version ($10,000)

Rosie Red Carpet Awards

Savant also recognized exceptional installations using its equipment through its Rosie Red Carpet Awards.
  • Best iPhone/iPod touch integration: Precision Audio Visual of Fairfield, Conn.
  • Best OSD Install: Versao Brasileira (Brazil)
  • Best Rosie System 24 Install: Home Theater Hook-Up of Anthem, Ariz.
  • Best Rosie System 36 Install: Theatron of Purcellville, Va.
  • Best system $75K and up (cost of Savant gear): All Audio Video of Prince William, Va.
  • Best Integrated Home: Home Media, Inc of Ketchum, Idaho
  • Savant Integrator of the Year: Phoenix Unequaled Home Entertainment of Cordova, Tenn.
  • CEO's Choice Award: Advanced Communications Technologies of Rockland, Mass.

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Article Topics

News · Product News · Home Automation and Control · Control Systems · Savant · Ipad · Apple · All topics

About the Author

Jason Knott, Editor, CE Pro
Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California.

27 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Mark Coxon  on  06/29  at  03:56 AM

I don’t know where this goes in a corporate environment, but as for residential, I think Savant is setting a new trend here.

From other columns it seemed like many thought the iPad would be a supplemental device, but it looks like it may be a traditional touchpanel replacement after all.

Other vendors are supporting apps as well, which is great.  We’ll see if the availability of VOIP and ADMS data, etc will be enough to keep the manufacturer’s versions in play for the time being.

Posted by Mark  on  06/29  at  10:18 AM

Feels like they may be jumping the gun a little on this since the iPad is not a drop-in replacement for a lot of in-wall units.  However, I guess it’s only a question of time before powered wall mounts become available for the iPad… At that point, it will challenge an awful lot of less capable in-wall units. 

Of course… if your touchscreen solution is currently flash-based, there won’t be an easy transistion for that!

Posted by marc fleury  on  06/29  at  11:00 AM

OpenRemote ( is betting heavy on the iPad as a integration panel. Here savant is talking about porting their app, but what about integrating the controls on a iPad assuming last inches are IP?

interesting trend but I do wonder how well integrators will take to it without mounted panels and IP/RF throughout houses.  Thoughts?

Posted by Philip  on  06/29  at  11:42 AM

One thing I see happening is stand alone device apps being better than what an integrator can create. The new Comcast DVR app is an eye opener, search for the YouTube video and see what I’m talking about. I can already hear the client saying “why can’t I do this or that with your app that I paid good money for?” Comcast is just one example of many killer 2way apps to come.

What would be ideal is a solution where when I launch the DVR app for example the TV and receiver power up and switch inputs. And if I tap the status bar while in the DVR app, or any other app for that matter, a subpage would drop down and give me volume control, lighting scenes, or whatever….

Unfortunatly although totally doable, that would require the master control app to run in the foreground, something apple will not allow. Apple will not even allow simple code to bypass lock screen, what a buzz kill!

If I was a developer I would be looking at android market.

Posted by Just A Dude  on  06/29  at  01:17 PM

The iPad is a great new option, but if I’m a Savant dealer I’d be asking myself what if I want an in room panel for a bathroom, or a dining room, or any area where an i-pad would be too big.  I LOVE my i-pad, but it’s not an end all be all solution.

Posted by jaybird  on  06/29  at  01:25 PM

Very significant announcement.

I previously stated that the iPad and propriety TouchScreens would co-exist.  When the powered and hardwired iPad dock becomes available and manufacturers use the iPad as their base platform, I guess I will have to eat my words.

Posted by Philip  on  06/29  at  01:28 PM

iPad in bathroom=reading material….lol
Why not?

Posted by Flip  on  06/29  at  02:48 PM

Yes indeed this is VERY signifcant announcement!!

I for one am glad it happened as it will finally start the ball rolling.

Face it folks, the good old days of making money on proprietary panels is OVER. I have learned that you cannot fight the Apple trend as hard as I tried for years.

Its the same issue with all of the media server firms starting to fold up shop in 2010. People DEMANDING to use their iPods as their MUSIC SERVER is what killed the likes of Escient, Imerge, etc.

It will be EXACTLY the same with respect to the TOUCHPANEL market. Its only a matter a time.

Posted by Philip  on  06/29  at  03:42 PM

Don’t discount the android platform either. Certainly won’t be 3 million devices in 80 days but with some solid hardware it could be a force to recond with….soon. Mobile devices just make sence for this application, cheap and powerful. As things move over to ip the backend hardware will thin out too. I’m currently controlling RadioRa2 and Onkyo receivers direct via ip and it’s perfect.

Posted by 39 Cent Stamp  on  06/29  at  07:50 PM

A Comcast iPad app will never be usable in an integrated system unless you want to hold multiple remotes or back in and out of multiple apps to do simple things like adjust volume. Why would Comcast want to get involved in making their app work with other stuff? They are a source not a control system.

What would be nice and what i assume will happen soon is if Comcast and others would provide the integration community with a module or protocol that gives us the ability to plug their app features into our GUI. Just like you can “plug in” Lutron lighting or Audio Request or an iPod today.

Someone needs to build a better in-wall dock for the iPad. Savants current in-wall dock looks like a photoshop joke. Its big and ugly. The in-wall dock should be no larger than 1/8” wider than the iPad itself all the way around. This sort of sleek imagined smile dock would make it seem a lot smaller and it would fit in bathrooms and other areas better. And dont forget that it can be used for video so you may see it replacing small TV’s in bathrooms where it can also double as the touchpanel.

The cost/margin topic keeps coming up and its silly IMO. Pricing on products fall and there is nothing you can do about it. Remember when 42” TV’s were $20k? You can get that TV for $600 now. Same thing is happening with wi-fi panels now. Who cares? Instead of a few fugly expensive panels my customers can now have 10 iPads making my product (their home automation system) look sexy and sophisticated.

Posted by Just A Dude  on  06/29  at  10:31 PM

The control platform that I support has been working with me closely to expand my buisness to other product catagories where I was making little or no profit before, Like SIP and POTS phone integration, digital signage and system monitoring.

Posted by Harald Steindl  on  06/30  at  02:22 AM

In addition to 39’s comment: I am puzzled by the speed of transition, i.e. how fast so called top priorities seemingly seemingly fade away into “dont care anymore”. After years of endless discussion about touchpanel hardkeys, their correct placement, cable connections, backboxes and many other REAL WORLD issues the new powers to be simply “design” a wall hook to glue a handheld device onto/into the wall.
Did anyone ever spend a single minute about building codes, warranty, etc? What is Apple’s position to permanently enclose an iPad into a housing? How crappy is the remaining WiFi?
How does a dealer/integrator support a PERMANENTLY installed system over many years, when the hardware plattform changes about once every year.
The iPad is a game changer, no doubt about, but right now we are in hype only mode.
For the vast majority of my customer base a touchpanel without dedicated hardkeys is simply a toy without any real world value! And if you combine a wall mounted touchpanel (without hardkeys) with a simple keypad nearby you simply missed it.

Posted by Juha Lindfors  on  06/30  at  06:56 AM

(1) The trend towards off-the-shelf hardware. This has been obvious for some time now. Competing on margins against the Apples/Intels/Asuses/AMDs of the world is a losing proposition, and ultimately a losing business model.

The generic hardware these companies produce in mass volumes and pricing undermines HA-specific custom hardware development for same purposes. HA solutions must adapt to this reality. This means different take on software development but also on certification, integration and quality assurance.

The drive towards IP controls in many areas (media centers especially, maybe TVs soon) is another enforcing direction to the off-the-shelf hardware trend. While lights, HVAC, etc will be IP-less for years to come (and will more like to adopt wireless sensor networks anyway), the home backbone infrastructure will be IP-based, driven by entertainment media.

Only where it is not possible to find generic off-the-shelf hardware, the space for dedicated HA hardware still remains. This means the hardware development is pushed more towards the “back-end” (gateways to IP backbones) rather than the front-end (touch screens and logic-hosting controllers).

(2) Dedicated app model. Pointed out in comments above, dedicated apps are great, but in the end you need an integration layer so you can control everything from a single app without switching. Something we’ve set out to do with OpenRemote. We are deploying on iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad but also on Android, btw.

Juha Lindfors

Posted by dkippy  on  06/30  at  11:20 AM

Welcome to the brave new world fellow CEDIA friends. The IP world has been inching into our world for many years now. The introduction, acceptance and price points that the iPad will bring about is something we’re all going to have to adjust to for the future of our industry and profits.

The one item that I haven’t seen many people discuss is what this product does to perceived value by the client. I welcome this advancement because what this means is that we all need to return our focus on Selling 101, Selling Our Company and why the proposed design is the best overall solution for the client.

Sad but some simply don’t get this and I fear won’t be around long term. Things are changing and we need to adapt as these forces are to large for us to fight or not adapt to properly.

last but not least all the talk of these cable apps, IR code apps and others all have a place but won’t get the client where they ultimately want to go. That’s what WE do! grin

Posted by Jason Knott  on  06/30  at  12:32 PM

A few integrators I have spoken with cite the iPad as one of their best “closers” lately.
They say they are submitting original proposals with dedicated touchpanels at first. When the client “wants a deal” as most of do, then the integrator switches out the dedicated panels to iPads, cutting the cost from $5K to $1K each. One guy told me that every time he does that, the client no longer tries to bargain with him on the expensive, high-end loudspeakers and other components in the system.

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