Pro vs. Hobbiest ML Users

Publicly discuss strategies, opportunities and best practices using the Lobby Suite with other professionals in this ever growing industry.
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jpimentel
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Couldn't agree more.

Postby jpimentel » Thu Sep 29, 2005 12:08 pm

Wow you summed up some serious issues.

The whole "dealers and consumers get the same product at nearly the same pricing" thing has been a stumbling block for me for years now. And I would agree also that until that is addressed, Main Lobby will not be embraced by pro installers out there. I am pretty sure Mario is, or is at least planning to address this.

The pricing model as well as the hack factor is a real turn off to many potential dealers as well. A dishonest hack is even more of a threat because there is currently no licensing enforcement scheme in place. They can buy one copy of the suite and resell it ad infinitum with no cost to them. This leaves the honest dealers at a serious disadvantage and of course leaves Cinemar with a serious loss of cash flow. The guys that leave disasterous installs in their wake are also not doing a service to Cinemar either. The just perpetuate the misnomer that PC systems are unrelaible.

I think what really has to happen is that Cinemar needs to come out with a line of pro products that integrate hardware and software so the dealers do not have to be a MCSE to get things going. Although I think any dealer that wants to be viable through the next 15 years should consider this kind of training anyway, it is better not to force it up front. In this scenario a MLServer is an actual server with a boat load of relaible and fully integrated serial and IR ports as well as a robust server platform to run the SW. With wired and wireless touch panel interfaces all ready to go. Then a series of media servers, disk arrays etc. could round out the offering. Hmm sounds like a great idea to me... maybe I should do that. Oh thats right, I already do. :D

All that said there is still a place for the public version of Main Lobby. Maybe it doesn't have all the cool feautres a pro version might have, but you could leave the hooks in so "techie" end users can write/make their own solutions (much like they are now). Furthermore, what better testing ground for wild new feature is there than a user group like this. Talk about getting bang for your buck. You develop an idea, throw it out there and get 500+ people to play around with it, find the bugs, suggest improvments and give you markeability feedback all for free. Pro users generally want to get something that works and get the job done without any hassles. They are not interested in playing around with buggy code.

Just my 2 cents.
Regards,

John

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Postby jss » Thu Sep 29, 2005 1:48 pm

Just curious, what's the competition? Here's my list of requirements:

1) Provides a sexy and feature rich graphical user interface for home automation and home theater products
2) Provides support for a range of different hardware from multiple vendors OR provides a reasonable method of extensibility to support unsupported hardware
3) Leverages PC hardware for reduced cost

I'm sure there are at least a few other programs which fit this list. Are any of them sold as full pro products through certified dealers only?

One possible example is http://www.fusionrd.com I have no idea how good their system is, but it looks like they are reselling ViewPads and PCs with their software installed as a "pro" product only available to dealers. Is this likely to succeed? They look like a software company which has chosen to put their logo sticker on the front of a PC.

-JSS

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Postby jpimentel » Thu Sep 29, 2005 2:02 pm

This is more competition for me than it is for Cinemar. Sort of.

These guys are doing almost exactly what I am suggesting Mario do. They have some form of SW that gives you HA control and media services and they pre-load it on some HW and sell it as a package. While this is most certainly not for the do it your selfer, I think this is exactly what Custom AV installers are looking for. In fact that is precisely what I do. I have my own line of gear that fully exploits the features of Main Lobby, and makes it simpler for the custom installer to use.

The key word there is simpler. Main Lobby has a ways to go before it is plug and play. And perhaps plug and play is not where it needs to be. Maybe, having a high level of customizability is a good thing to keep the creative juices flowing. I do know it is tough to make money if you don't get a return on your investment of $$, time and effort.
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John

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Postby Phil L » Thu Sep 29, 2005 2:48 pm

jss wrote:One possible example is http://www.fusionrd.com I have no idea how good their system is, but it looks like they are reselling ViewPads and PCs with their software installed as a "pro" product only available to dealers. Is this likely to succeed? They look like a software company which has chosen to put their logo sticker on the front of a PC.

-JSS


This is the firm I made reference to in various posts here.

You can also go hear for related info:

http://www.mplusint.com/

I attended their seminar at CEDIA given by the actual CEO. I have been in contact with him since last year. They also had a Demo Booth on the upper show floor which was attacting some attention.

With regards to the Viewsonic 210's, they are currently a Viewsonic partner. Fusion is really an extension of the MPLUS group that originally came up with the automation software for the Airpanels (the original MPLUS software). HOWEVER, they were actually showing another pad (all black and very slick looking) at their booth. I have a feeling that they will be using their own tablets in near future but this is ONLY my speculation.

The rebadged PC as you called it is nothing but. The Fusion M2000 is their own device builit to THEIR spec's which is the system controller COMBINED with the equivalent of a Global Cache unit with 6 serial ports!!

They are now just getting into is their OWN MUSIC SERVER which you can add as an option to the Fusion Controller in anywhere up to 1 TERRABYTE!! (that what they said at CEDIA Expo). It is basically the same idea as an Imerge 2000, Elan Viadj, Escient E2 Fireball or Audio Request without the glitz. Or you can just use the Fusion to control one of the above. They currently have 2 way interfaces for the Escient and Request I believe. They also have or will soon have many add ons for lighting, security, hvac, etc.

And they are soon introducing their own 8" in-wall touch screen made to THEIR specs also.

They have already been around for a few years and they are now really starting to perfect their marketing plan.

I have REALLY SERIOUSLY been entertaining the idea of using these guys as my entry/mid range home automation system. In all honesty, I would probably easily choose this over Cinemar at this point.

If Cinemar needed a model to follow in how to get a product to market targeted toward the pro dealer, this is it.
Last edited by Phil L on Thu Sep 29, 2005 3:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby jpimentel » Thu Sep 29, 2005 2:58 pm

Just so you know, Music Mountain / Cinemar systems can smoke these guys.

I don't feel the forum is a proper place to try and sell my gear, but suffice it to say I can blow them away in every category using Cinemar (and other) SW.
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John

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Postby Phil L » Thu Sep 29, 2005 3:11 pm

jpimentel wrote:Just so you know, Music Mountain / Cinemar systems can smoke these guys.

I don't feel the forum is a proper place to try and sell my gear, but suffice it to say I can blow them away in every category using Cinemar (and other) SW.


I think its up to Mario to blow these guy's away as you say and NOT an individual integrator.

As an ENTRY level (from my point of view) system, EVEN THROUGH a dealer, I firmly believe the FULL FUSION set-up will be substantially cheaper than hiring someone such as yourself to put everything together piece meal and all of your "custom" programming time. <nudge/wink>

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Postby DavidL » Thu Sep 29, 2005 3:35 pm

PhilL,
John has already done much of the research and implementation decisions for a successful software / hardware setup. He sells the solution to an integrator. The integrator sells to the end user and installs the products in the end user's home. John has also been an integrator, but packages the "turn key system" that can be customized by him or the integrator that resells the package. John brings the experience of an integrator's job and role to a package that is supportable by an integrator to a home owner.
Last edited by DavidL on Thu Sep 29, 2005 7:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Phil L » Thu Sep 29, 2005 4:02 pm

Huh??

You just lost me?

John I assume is J Pimentel?

And John somehow has a deal as a "distributor"? to "re-market" Cinemar on YOUR Behalf? to other integrators who will in turn again "re-market" the turn-key package to an end user??

And what if that integrator in turn "re-markets" the package to one other party before it finally reaches the end user?? Just who is resposible to the customer??

Tell you what. When Cinemar decides to market dealer oriented turn-key packages to a custom integrator who will in turn sell and install the pkg. directly to the end user with a clearly defined chain of "warranty" support then maybe you will be taken seriously as a professional product.

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Postby jpimentel » Thu Sep 29, 2005 4:40 pm

Thanks Smooth, I couldn't have said it better myself. But I have some time on my hands so ...

I am not an installer or even a user interface programmer. I build systems to sell to installers like Phil L (I assume you are a custom installer). Fusion Research is in fact a direct competitor of mine, not Ciemar's.

I do a large amount of integration with 3rd party hardware to ensure compatibility also, and as a service to dealers that do not wish to buy and integrate the equipment themselves, I also design and integrate turn key solutions so all they have to do is plug it in. In addition I offer direct training and support of Music Mountain branded products.

On occasion (rare) I will take on a project like the one mentioned earlier if it looks profitable and interesting, but that is the exception, not the rule.

Most dealers find it beneficial to use a core set of devices say Meridian Processors, Runco display devices, Vantage Lighting, ApriAire HVAC etc., etc. For these dealers, I put together a standad package that can be installed at build time just for them. I would be interested to see how my prices compare to Fusions, but not on this Forum. Again I don't want to try to put out the sales pitch here. I am just trying as best I can to illustrate how a Cinemar dealer can be succesful.

Simply stated a High End Custom A/V Installer / Retailer is not a good fit for a Cinemar Dealer, but an excellent fit for a Music Mountain Dealer.

A good fit for a Cinemar Dealer would be someone who is willing to put their own tweaks on a fully integrated system and also add value in customization and installer branding.

I think that sums up what I do with ML :)

Oh yes and I warrant everything in my system (hardware and software).
Regards,



John

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Postby jpimentel » Thu Sep 29, 2005 5:20 pm

Phil L wrote:Huh??

You just lost me?

John I assume is J Pimentel?


Yes

Phil L wrote:And John somehow has a deal as a "distributor"? to "re-market" Cinemar on YOUR Behalf? to other integrators who will in turn again "re-market" the turn-key package to an end user??


Sort of, I am an OEM. That means I buy lots of products from lots of diffent vendors (including Cinemar) and integrate them all together, adding value and fulfilling my purpose in life.

I do not re-market on Cinemar's behald however, I market on Music Mountain's behalf. I also don't market for J. River, TheaterTek, Microsoft or any other SW vendor I use. They are vendors like you might buy speakers or TVs from a vendor.

Phil L wrote:And what if that integrator in turn "re-markets" the package to one other party before it finally reaches the end user??


More power to them. The integrator is welcome to re-market their products on down the line and if they add value that is proportionate to their markup, they will be successful, but the last person who sold the product is responsible to support it to the end user, not Cinemar and not Music Mountain. I very seldom take calls from my dealer's customers.

Phil L wrote:Just who is resposible to the customer??


If you sold it to them, you are. Do you think someone that buys a Dell PC expects to get support directly from Micorsoft? If they do, they are deluded. No, they don't. If they buy from Dell, they get support from Dell. The same applies for Cinemar and Music Mountain products. If I have an issue with Cinemar SW, I call Cinemar, not Macomedia or Flash-n-Pack or any or Mario's vendors.

Phil L wrote:Tell you what. When Cinemar decides to market dealer oriented turn-key packages to a custom integrator who will in turn sell and install the pkg. directly to the end user with a clearly defined chain of "warranty" support then maybe you will be taken seriously as a professional product.


I guess I don't understand the confusion here. Yes I am an OEM of Cinemar products. That should be obvious by now. OEM relationships are all over the place. Of the dozens of Plasma manufacturers out there do you know how many actually make their own glass? Three.
Regards,



John

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Postby DavidL » Thu Sep 29, 2005 7:04 pm

I reread my last post and I was having trouble following the english ;) I took a few seconds and edited it a bit. That's what happens when you are doing a few things at once.

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Postby gregoryx » Thu Sep 29, 2005 11:52 pm

Phil L wrote:IMHO, (any many of you are not going to like it), until there is a change in the current business model...perhaps with a future release of an INTEGRATOR ONLY version with UNIQUE and EXCLUSIVE features WAY beyond what is available to all of you now, this will NOT be embraced by really high-end AV integrators.


... or wise, business-savvy people will help establish a new business model. Pretty much everything that our company's clients pay us to support can be purchased directly by the clients and (theoretically) implemented and supported by them with free support from the manufacturers... :shock: ... yet they pay us tens of thousands each client each year (some more, some less) to support it for them... and they are thrilled with the service and the price and refer their associates to us and praise us publicly... for supporting products that are purchasable on eBay, in some cases. Welcome to the new world. :mrgreen:

If there are people who want something, there is a way to make them thrilled to pay for it. The "how" is the question. Of course, there's always the "that'll never work" mentality... followed some time thereafter by the "well, of course that worked for that person or company because (insert lame excuse why the doom-sayer is now wrong here)".


jpimentel wrote:The key word there is simpler.


Too true.


It appears to me that John and his competitors have the right idea: no progress was ever made by insisting that there was no way to progress; progress occurs when a direction is established and motion is begun. John and his competitors are creating a NEW market model. I think that's appropriate considering that the purchasers are a new market segment. The future professional installer - at least the most successful ones - will enjoy a much wider account base and more recurring revenue from that base, but must accept the new solutions as they are at that moment to capitalize on the opportunity. To wait is to allow the competition to capitalize on the opportunity and gain a head start; whether they get it right or get it wrong, they are ahead in the experience department.


I think there is a HUGE market growing for this general space right now. It is all those folks who have always wished that they could afford to have that really cool AMX / Crestron stuff that they saw in the board-room or their friends' rich friends' house :wink:. These folks will pay moderate up front fees (thousands easily, tens of thousands in many cases) to add this functionality. Most importantly, they will pay regularly for those things to continue to work as they expect. These folks are paying hundreds of dollars a month to Tivo, DirectTV, XM, SBC, Netflix, BlockBuster, and many other folks for services they use. They don't even flinch at it any more. If they want to pay up front, there's still money per month to be gathered... and they will pay it gladly if it is presented right. Can't afford the up-front costs? Leasing.

The topic here should not be along the lines of "can it be done?" or even "is it being done?" but "how can it be done best at this point in time?".

I think a "members-only" forum here that is exclusive to pros would be appropriate. I don't think it should be visible to the rest of the user base because the goal is not to let them feel excluded but to allow the business owners to speak of issues like revenue per client and cash-flow maximization strategies and such that may offend portions of the user-base.

That said, I don't think the "why it won't work" is really all that useful. It is what it is. It may be something different some day. Come back when it suits your needs; it's not going to change over night. If you find something that meets your expectations, come back and let us know.

Case in point: I spoke to Mario about three years ago; I said that I was not interested in a product that did not support client-server; he said it was coming; I said I'd be interested when it did; I hit the boards every now and then, lurking. A year later, when MLServer hit beta (is it out of beta now? :P), I jumped in. No point pissing and moaning about it in the mean time, ya know?

I don't sell this product and my current business requires more attention than will allow me to start another right now; but given time, there's a helluva market for this. John, I salute you and anyone else making a go at this! =D>

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Postby jss » Fri Sep 30, 2005 7:33 am

GregoryX Wrote:

I think there is a HUGE market growing for this general space right now. It is all those folks who have always wished that they could afford to have that really cool AMX / Crestron stuff that they saw in the board-room or their friends' rich friends' house.


Yup, that's how I ended up here. When I started planning my new home about two years ago, I thought I was going to go really high end on my automation. Was I ever suprised! After seeing all the stuff I could not afford, I actually felt quite inadequate :shock:

I think Crestron and AMX actually will help sell products like Main Lobby. I'm just guessing, but probably only 20% of less of the people who actually look at this stuff can afford it once they get the quote. I fell into this camp, and I was dissapointed to discover I could only afford 1 or 2 monochrome LCDs.

I poked around for PC solutions and discovered ML. Now I have an absolutely awesome touchpanel inteface for my house. I think there are many people like me, who's total HA/Audio budget is less than $50K who look at the Crestron/AMX stuff with envy. ML fits this market.

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Postby HAL_MAN » Fri Sep 30, 2005 7:43 am

Brilliantly stated Gregoryx.

There is a market for this product TODAY. Frankly if any dealer knows a product well enough and makes it attractive to the buyer. (And MainLobby is very attractive) it will sell. Because a person usually does not really buy a product they buy into seller's idea of how the product fits them. And a successful integrator business (no matter which product) is only as good as its sales people. That said one most also have a stable product or the follow-up calls will kill the business. With Mainlobby server and other ha apps running on a secured server, along with many semi-locked down clients running the ML suite could easily be made 99% reliable and far more customizable then its competitors. Allot of isp's can not claim 99% uptime.




Also a dealer only forum also sounds like a splendid idea.


But that’s just my opinion,
Shawn Walsh

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Postby jss » Fri Sep 30, 2005 9:01 am

Another vote for a dealer-only topic. It can be set up like the developer topic.

What do you think Mario? Have you been following this heated thread?


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