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Thursday, March 25, 2010

By Steve Crowe

The days of calling Circuit City a defunct big-box "store" might be coming to an end.

Systemax, which purchased the Circuit City brand in May 2009 and relaunched the company online, is "contemplating a brick-and-mortar rebirth," according to Dow Jones Newswires.

Systemax bought and revived CompUSA, one of many failed electronics retailers, and now plans to open stores in Houston, Chicago and other major markets after successfully testing stores in Florida. There currently are 34 CompUSA stores.

Could Circuit City follow the same plan?

"Recession hurts, but it also creates opportunities that would not have existed otherwise," said Systemax Chief Executive Richard Leeds. "We have a tremendous amount of excitement around our company now because of these acquisitions. We picked up two iconic retail brands for well under $50 million. That to me is the bargain of the century."

Would Circuit City stores be successful?
Posted by Steve Crowe on 03/25 at 08:16 AM
Blogs, (5) Comments, Permalink

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

By Robert Archer
One of the knocks that I hear from audiophile community about custom installation is that it does not focus enough on the audio.

It’s my belief that a vast majority of the systems installed by CE pros are reflective of their clients’ desires, but that’s not to say there isn’t some validity to the audiophile genre’s claim.

As a whole I also believe that installers should be offering quality audio systems, especially in today’s economy where video is marginalized to the point where it’s practically a loss leader for most businesses.

Installers that share my opinion about filling in those revenue gaps with audio, and are interested in learning more about audio should investigate the happenings at EHX this week in sunny Orlando.

EHX Spring once again plays host to Demo Alley, which is an exclusive area of the show in which many of the top A/V companies demonstrate their products to attendees in a live system environment.

This year’s show features exhibitors such as THIEL Audio, Bryston, XLO, B&K, Sherwood, Monitor Audio, Straight Wire and Earthquake Sound in Demo Alley, as well as companies like Russound, Sencore, Elan and SpeakerCraft.

Personally, I am always excited to see what THIEL Audio, Monitor and Bryston are doing and I always make a point to see these manufacturers at every show. This year I think…

Monday, March 22, 2010

By Julie Jacobson
Just a few hours after Hillcrest Labs released its Kylo Web browser for the TV, Hulu appears to have pulled its content from the app.

We reported earlier about the new service, which lets users browse the Web from the couch, using a TV-friendly browser that lets users zoom, pan, and perform other functions using any common USB HID device.

As we mentioned previously, Kylo's home page directs users to the main Web site of several streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix. It does not take you to some special made-for-TV interface.


At release, Hulu worked fine with Kylo. Now it does not.

Hillcrest CEO Dan Simpkins just released this statement:

"We are currently investigating why Hulu videos are not playing within the Kylo browser. Prior to our formal launch, Hulu videos would play within the Kylo browser. Like Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari, the Kylo browser is simply a Web browser, it's our sincere hope that Hulu isn't restricting access."

We hope so too.

It's the same thing Boxee has maintained since Hulu famously shut off Boxee.

Boxee CEO Avner Ronen said recently:

I’d like to set the record straight regarding Boxee’s access to Hulu. Boxee uses a web browser to access Hulu’s content – just like Firefox or Internet Explorer. Boxee users click on a link to Hulu’s website and…
Posted by Julie Jacobson on 03/22 at 07:29 AM
Blogs, Video, Digital Media, Media Servers, (6) Comments, Permalink

By Julie Jacobson

That’s me in CEA’s email blast promoting the Mark of Excellence awards at EHX Spring.

I’m not sure if this is false advertising or if I really have arrived.

I don’t consider myself to be elite or excellent. I am influential undoubtedly because I influence people to write me hate mail, call for my demise, launch CEOs into mine fields and such.

In any case, the awards reception (no sit-down dinner this year) is March 26 at 6:30 pm.

Tickets are $45 for CEA members and $60 for non-members.

The Electronic House Expo Spring 2010 is March 25-27 in Orlando, Fla.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 03/22 at 06:15 AM
Blogs, Events, EHX Spring, (3) Comments, Permalink

Saturday, March 20, 2010

By Tom LeBlanc
Gambling analogies spring to mind when thinking about what Harman International is doing — doubling down, upping its ante, putting its money where its mouth is.

The makers of Revel, Mark Levinson, Lexicon and JBL Synthesis began talking about an aggressive marketing effort aimed at expanding its client base during the depths of the recession. That’s a gamble.

“We did double-down. We saw a huge opportunity and invested in it. We took the opportunity while others retreated,” says Marc Kellom, VP marketing for Harman High-Performance Audio/Video.

Harman’s goal was to increase its brand identity among luxury consumers.

Rather than market exclusively to audiophiles, the company pitched its brand to discerning, upscale consumers — the fine wine-drinking, premium cigar-smoking, Armani-wearing and Lexus-driving crowd.

So it wasn’t a surprise that Harman parked its mobile showroom outside the Architectural Digest Home Design Show, March 18-21, at Pier 94 in New York. During the first day of the show, a trade-only day, Harman hosted a steady stream of architects and interior designers.

Often conduits to luxury consumers, the architects and designers sat through a two-channel demo of Mark Levinson components powering two Revel Ultima Salon2 speakers and an 11-channel JBL Synthesis room featuring two K2 speakers.

Kellom says Harman is seeing penetration with architects and designers, which are doing a good job of educating their clients about Revel, Mark Levinson, Lexicon and JBL.

“These brands are really powerful, but they can…
Posted by Tom LeBlanc on 03/20 at 07:50 AM
Blogs, Audio, Amplifiers, Distributed Audio, Receivers, Speakers, (1) Comments, Permalink

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

By Steve Crowe
Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CEA, doesn't seem fazed by the lack of 3D content.

Or by how expensive 3D systems are. And he certainly isn't worried about "Avatar" losing the Oscar for Best Picture and the impact that will have on 3D.

In CE Vision Magazine, Shapiro says "3DTV will be a hit. Gamers will embrace the 3DTV experience. Many events, sports and movies will be enhanced by 3DTV."

He does admit there are many challenges to overcome.

3DTV is not HDTV. 3DTV is a wonderful feature that many consumers will want - but it is not in the HD league.

It is early and many challenges must be overcome. We must agree on standards so consumers can invest in glasses. We must understand that those with eye issues, monovision or susceptibility to motion sickness may not appreciate 3D. We need to qualify customers and set their expectations to avoid 3DTV returns. We need to understand the benefits and any potential harm from 3D viewing.

Many CE pros seem to have a different take on 3D, saying they haven't talked with clients about 3D and that they're taking a "wait-and-see approach."

Who do you guys think is right?
Posted by Steve Crowe on 03/17 at 10:51 AM
Blogs, (2) Comments, Permalink

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

By Jason Knott
Lock up the booth babes, tear off that Obama bumper sticker and get ready to learn, network and party in Orlando next week.

There was almost a cataclysm of convergence in the central Florida community from March 25-27.

Early reports had Tiger Woods ending his self-imposed hiatus from the PGA Tour at the Bay Hill Invitational in Orlando, just a few miles from the Orange County Convention Center where EHX Spring will be taking place. Late word is he has decided to skip the tournament.

Booth babes across Orlando are breathing a sigh of relief. Or, on second thought, maybe they're disappointed.

Meanwhile, controversial conservative commentator Glenn Beck is swooping into town for one night on March 27 to hold one of his “American Revival” events at the OCF Arena in downtown Orlando.

And EHX Spring will be taking place March 25-27 with 60-plus educational seminars and 125 vendors, plenty of networking and even the debut of the CE Pro All Star Band.

I went to both Woods' and Beck's Web sites and personally invited both to stop by EHX. I will let you know if I get any response.

By the way, tickets to Beck's all-day event are $135 and tickets to the Bay Hill Invitational are $45 plus parking. So EHX is by far the best bargain of the three.
Posted by Jason Knott on 03/16 at 11:33 AM
Blogs, Events, EHX Spring, (7) Comments, Permalink

Thursday, March 11, 2010

By Julie Jacobson
It's official, according to AppleInsider: iPhone's new 4.0 software update will support multitasking. So, presumably, will the iPad.

According to the article:

Today's iPhone 3.x software is a fully preemptive multitasking operating system, but it artificially restricts apps (other than specific ones bundled with the system by Apple) from running in the background.

Controversy over "multitasking" within the iPhone OS has been brewing ever since Apple launched iPhone 2.0 with the ability to run third party software titles. While often reported as begin a technical flaw, the iPhone OS really has no problem with multitasking.

The system's phone, SMS, email, iPod, voice recorder, Nike+, and certain other bundled apps can continue in the background while the user launches another app. However, third party titles obtained from the App Store (including apps from Apple, such as Remote or iDisk) can not be launched at the same time.

This behavior is prevented by the iPhone OS' security model, which is designed to close the current app whenever the user returns to the Home screen or accepts an incoming call. This design prevents apps from being able to run in the background without the user knowing, and therefore erases any real potential for spyware, adware and viruses. ...

Among these apps begging for background execution are: Pandora-style Internet radio; third party instant messaging features that are available at all times just like SMS or email; and Loopt or Google Latitude type apps that report the user's location at regular intervals.

Will that convince home-control purists that the iPad…
Posted by Julie Jacobson on 03/11 at 10:16 AM
Blogs, Home Automation and Control, (3) Comments, Permalink

By Julie Jacobson

We thought we’d seen all the “green” certifications out there, but Stewart Filmscreen alerted us to yet another: GreenGuard Children & Schools Certification.

A leading manufacturer of video projector screens, Stewart has just earned the GreenGuard designation for its framing systems and screen materials.

According to the company:
The GreenGuard Children & Schools Certification indicates that a product has met the highest standards for clean indoor air and contributes to healthy work, home, school and other indoor environments. GreenGuard Children & Schools Certification establishes strict chemical emission limits to define low-emitting materials for environments where people spend an extended period of time. Children, in particular, are vulnerable to airborne toxins, as they have higher inhalation rates per pound of body weight than adults.

GreenGuard Certification is recognized and accepted by a number of "green" building programs, including the United States Green Building Council's (USGBC) LEED Rating System. The not-for-profit GreenGuard Environmental Institute oversees the GreenGuard Certification Programs and establishes acceptable indoor standards for indoor products, environments and buildings.

We’re delighted for Stewart but … really … another green certification?

Anyway, the company is proud of its green achievements. Stewart earlier received a Smart Business Recycling Award from L.A. County for clean manufacturing.

Stewart VP and CFO Tom Stewart says that award trumps even the prestigious A/V industry awards the company has won.

“We have won numerous awards over our…
Posted by Julie Jacobson on 03/11 at 07:20 AM
Blogs, Displays, Projectors and Screens, (2) Comments, Permalink

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

By Julie Jacobson
I never miss an opportunity to promote the idea of cookie-cutter systems as a viable business model for custom integrators.

And this recent article in Builder magazine, gives me another excuse to proselytize.

The article profiles several heretofore custom-only builders that are now turning to semi-custom home building.

Steve Kendrick of Structures Building Co. in Charleston, S.C., used to build million-dollar made-from-scratch homes, as well as high-end spec homes. Now he's launching HouseSimple, a build-on-your-lot program offering a variety of luxury plans with preselected, pre-priced base packages, as well as upgrade options for lighting, fixtures, hardware, appliances, and exterior paint selections.

Kendrick says:

A lot of people get scared off by the custom building process because the design meetings and selections are so time-consuming. ... The idea behind HouseSimple is to give buyers a blueprint as a starting point. From there, they can keep it simple with the finishes and schemes we’ve preselected, or they can fully customize. Or they can customize just one part of it, such as the lighting package. The overall idea is to simplify the process and make it less overwhelming for those who want something that looks and feels custom, but don’t have the time to pick every little detail.

The article highlights several other business models related to semi-custom building ... a good read for custom integrators who are exploring new directions.
Posted by Julie Jacobson on 03/10 at 04:05 PM
Blogs, Builders, (0) Comments, Permalink

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