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How to Capitalize on Apple TV

Despite zero margins, more custom integrators are figuring out ways to capitalize on Apple's media streamer.


For a minimum investment installers are offering clients the functionality of Apple TV, which includes connectivity with iTunes and this intuitive interface.
Robert Archer · June 24, 2010

With product introductions like the iPad, the iPhone and iPod touch, Apple has commanded the attention of consumers, custom integrators and manufacturers.

One product that’s a member of the same iTunes electronics family that has flown under the radar, however, is Apple TV. This media aggregation/streaming device has been primarily a niche product for hardcore Apple enthusiasts - even before Steve Jobs’ remark about it being more of a “hobby” for the company.

Surprisingly perhaps, more custom installers are joining that niche. CE pros are embracing Apple TV as a gateway product that gets them “in the door” with an increasing amount of thrifty end users, and as a means to help them maintain revenues in an economy that’s shunned expensive, luxury electronics.

Think Like a Consumer

Arguably the biggest hurdle for installers to overcome when considering adding Apple TV to their product lineup is the stigma of selling a retail product. Dennis Jaques, system designer for Bedford, N.H.-based Maverick Integration, emphasizes that Apple TV can serve as a gateway product.

“Don’t put your own value on it. [Clients] want what they want,” Jaques says. “You have to find a reliable, repeatable product and choose to learn it, and you have to learn to be that ‘guy,’ whether it’s Apple TV or Kaleidescape, for example. Apple TV evolves and merges - it facilitates video distribution.”

Jaques adds that there’s no money to be made on the hardware, but it can make you become the client’s “guy.”

“I haven’t made a dime on the hardware, but it enhances the relationships with [the clients],” Jacques says. “It enables you to get back into their homes in a few months. If you send the right person you have a chance to close another sale, and it’s better than a mailer and all those other marketing avenues because there’s no better opportunity than being in the person’s house.”

Complete ‘Apple Media System’

Apple products for the most part are designed to appeal to a large consumer demographic. The company’s high brand recognition and well thought-out engineering concepts allow installers to successfully sell to clients with varying A/V requirements, especially when Apple pieces are combined.

Eric Edelen, THX-certified audio engineer for Kalispell, Mont.-based, Bluestone Audio Video, says his company often leverages the mobility of the iTunes family of products to multiple-home-owning clients.

“We had a need for a product that would provide our vacation homeowners an HD media system with a broad range of current on-demand content without a subscription or a contract,” he explains. “It [Apple TV] a l lows our customers to travel with only their iPod, iPhone or laptop computer and stream all of their content to their media systems wirelessly. They can rent a movie in Dallas, watch part of it on the airplane and finish it in their condo on Whitefish Mountain.

“For primary residences, each family member can stream their movies, music, podcasts or whatever to the theater in HD with 5.1 surround, or to the living room,” Edelen adds. “I’ve seen a family of four streaming stuff all over the house flawlessly.”

Edelen adds that, in today’s economic environment, people of all income levels are looking for value, and Bluestone can include Apple TV in all of its theater installations.

“When we demo a system we use the Apple TV instead of a Blu-ray player - it’s like offering a media server with 20,000 titles. It simply increases the value of our installed systems,” he notes. “To make it profitable, we try to install a complete ‘Apple Media System.’ This is basically a 2TB Time Capsule [NAS drive], a computer and a few Apple TVs networked to each family member’s computer. You can’t sell Apple TVs for a profit, even if you are an Authorized Apple Reseller as we are. Make your money on the ‘professional installation’ or die.”



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  About the Author

Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at robert.archer@emeraldexpo.com

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