Fuze Revamps Multiroom Media Center, Signs OEM Deal with Velocity
Automated DVD importing is now a feature of the Fuze system.
Fuze Media is teaming up with PC maker Velocity Micro to build and sell Fuze’s special breed of entertainment products based on Windows Media Center.
Fuze takes advantage of Media Center’s content management applications, but “hides” the PC-like features so that the product seems more like a dedicated media server, rather than a computer.
Under a licensing program launched in April, Velocity will roll out a PC called the Velocity Micro FuzeBox, with a starting price of about $1,995.
Technology and Business Revamp
Fuze has had a bit of an identity crisis since it unveiled its Fuze Media Server in August 2007. The company originally planned to design, build (through a contract manufacturer) and sell Media Center-based whole-house audio and entertainment systems to the custom installation channel.
Recently, however, the company opted instead to OEM its technology to hardware providers like Velocity.
VP of marketing and sales Bob Silver says that Fuze underestimated the expense of building and marketing media servers on its own. With the OEM approach, he says, “we can keep a leaner staff.”
Beyond the shift in business models, Fuze has made several technological changes to its product.
For starters, the company has decided to scrap its clever Cat 5 whole-house audio system that included amplified keypads called FuzeTunes.
“They didn’t like it,” says Silver, speaking about dealer reaction to FuzeTunes. “They all wanted their big amps.”
With Fuze’s new direction, integrators can have their own big amps, and still take advantage of Fuze’s Media Center innovations.
In addition, Fuze is enhancing its software, dropping its prices, and enabling the use of Media Center Extenders for multiroom applications.
Fuze’s new approach is “a combination of a business revamp and a technology revamp,” says Silver.
Velocity Micro, a leading system builder with expertise in Media Center, is the first taker under Fuze’s new OEM program (not surprisingly since Velocity originally made the boxes for Fuze).
Initially, Velocity will roll out the Velocity Micro FuzeBox, with a starting price of about $1,995. The cost is “dramatically lower” than Fuze’s own Fuze Box, says Silver. “We looked at the bare minimum components to make it work acceptably.”
Automated DVD importing is now a feature of the Fuze system
Primarily, Velocity’s product will have fewer zones than the original (one video and five audio). Other than that, “the software is pretty much the same,” Silver says.
Working with Velocity gives Fuze an able manufacturing partner, as well as access to retail markets that Fuze could never tap on its own.
“They’re in essence handling all of the hardware, Web sales and retail,” says Silver, who declined to name retail outlets where Fuze will be sold. (Velocity products currently are sold at Micro Center, Circuit City and Best Buy.)
FuzeOne: ‘Technology Revamp’
Besides the business model, a lot has happened to Fuze technology since we last covered it.
The big CEDIA 2008 announcement is that the company has developed an entirely new platform called FuzeOne.
The product evolved from feedback that “people liked that we had TV, music and movies all in one product,” says Silver.
The initial “pushback” from dealers and consumers, he says, revolved around the cost of the FuzeMini PC clients (about $2,500 retail) and the burden of DVD ripping, among other things.
OEMs had complaints of their own, namely Fuze’s complicated architecture.
“It must be a much simpler implementation for OEMs,” says Silver. “We needed products that fit within the hardware constraints that PC OEMs operate under. We had to rethink the architecture to get this product into an all-in-one box.”
Hence the “one” in FuzeOne.
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]