Biggest CE Stories of 2012

Nortek, rear projection DLPs, distributor networks and 4K Ultra HD top our list of the big stories in custom electronics for 2012.

Biggest CE Stories of 2012
Julie Jacobson · December 31, 2012

Nortek had some major shuffling. Mitsubishi dropped DLPs. Other than that, we saw very little drama in 2012.

Yawn. Last year we had some great drama for our Biggest CE Stories of 2011: Savant vs. Crestron vs. Cyber Sound, the death of Steve Jobs, the plight of the independent rep, the rise of the home automation mass marketers ….

These were the big stories of 2012:

Nortek Finds its Groove

In just one year, the Nortek group of companies lost a lot of leaders: Grant Rummell (Nortek home technology group), Mark Terry (the former AVC group), Mike “Sparky” Detmer (Niles), Graham Hallett (Xantech), and three bigwigs at SpeakerCraft – CEO Jeremy Burkhardt, longtime VP Engineering Jeff Francisco and Nirv product manager Daniel Kippycash. Nirv was killed after many years of development. That was a story in and of itself.

The AVC group of three (Niles, Xantech, Elan) became the CORE Brands of six (adding SpeakerCraft, Proficient and Panamax/Furman), and relocated to Petaluma, Calif., from Carlsbad.

Nortek divested LiteTouch, selling it to Savant Systems.

Meanwhile, the one outlier, Gefen, teamed with two of Nortek’s commercial video subsidiaries – Magenta Research and TVOne – to form the ProAV Group, with Hagai Gefen presiding.

So it’s been quite the year for Nortek, but it seems the pieces have fallen nicely into place. The fact that the most of the remaining top execs converged on Petaluma—Even HomeLogic’s original Joe Lautner—is rather telling.

While many in the industry grumbled at the changes, it was certainly the right thing to do for Nortek and the various subsidiaries, which had failed to recognize any real synergies in the past.

Prediction: 2013 will be a calm year for the Nortek home technology companies.

The End of DLP Rear Pros

It may not seem like a big deal for our industry, but Mitsubishi’s exiting the DLP rear projection business was a big deal for me, and the general population, it seems. got almost 100,000 page views on that story, and a slew of comments from dealers and consumers lamenting the loss.

It was bound to happen and Mitsubishi milked their factories and intellectual property for as long as they could.

The company was the last to produce the relatively thick TVs, which were the biggest value inch-for-inch. It’s the only big screen I’ve ever owned (view the slideshow).


Shakeup in Distributor Networks

It was a busy year for distributors, with shifting alliances and major new developments.

WAVE Electronics, member of the PowerHouse Alliance, left the group this year in order to expand nationally. PowerHouse was not happy.

Meanwhile, a new distribution network, Catalyst AV, was formed only this month with 11 highly reputable regionals.

Board members include the who’s who of distributor networks: Steve Presti of Easy Access Distribution, former president of DDG; Wally Whinna of Allnet Distributing, co-founder of AVAD; and Mike Hench of Electronic Stockroom, former president of The EDGE Distributors Group.

And just in the nick of time for this list, the Digital Delivery Group lost its executive director, David Kaplan, who presided over the group since its founding in 2005.

Dan Kippycash (of SpeakerCraft Nirv fame) has taken over DDG, just as he launches a new speaker company called TDG Group.

4K Ultra HD Gets Real

Starting at CES in January 2012, 4K resolution TVs (Ultra HD) were getting some good buzz, primarily from Web sites that make a lot of money on good buzz.

But we saw the category achieve some major milestones late this year, with LG shipping its first 84-inch display. Sony shipped shortly thereafter – with 4K feature films to go with it. Westinghouse has announced four new 4K screen sizes up to 110 inches, and JVC plans an 84-incher as well.

We think 2013 will be a good year for 4K, and not just because it has a user-friendly moniker, thanks to the Consumer Electronics Association: Ultra HD.

4K Ultra HD is one of our Top 5 Home Technology Opportunities for 2013.

Kaleidescape Gets Reprieve

If nothing else, Kaleidescape is always good for some scandalous news. The company’s DVD movie servers were almost in jeopardy early this year after a judge gave the DVD CCA the injunction it wanted against the products.

Fortunately, another judge granted Kaleidescape a stay on the injunction until all appeals exhausted, giving the servers at least another year of life.

Meanwhile, Kaleidescape is trying to distance itself from the DVD CCA (Copy Control Association) by launching its first online store, offering bit-for-bit downloads and featuring more than 300 titles from Time Warner Cable. The service supports UltraViolet, meaning lower-resolution versions of the content can be downloaded and streamed to computers and smart devices.

Will Kaleidescape be able to attract other studios?

Notable Acquisitions & Start-ups

2012 saw a rash of major acquisitions among leading brands such as 2Gig/Vivint (a $2 billion sale), HAI, Leviton and Thiel. It also was the year of start-ups by some well-known names in the custom electronics business, including Jeff Zemanek and Utz Baldwin.

Here is the scoop on mergers, acquisitions and start-ups of 2012.

  About the Author

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. Email Julie at [email protected]

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