Apple’s Game Changer

April 29, 2010

The iPad Brings Affordable Elegance to Home AV Integration

Gordon van Zuiden new
Gordon van Zuiden ( is president of cyberManor in Los Gatos, California.

I believe that the launch of the Apple iPad last month will be regarded as a watershed event in the custom installation industry.

We all know that the success of the iPod and iPhone platforms can be directly attributed to their gorgeous, intuitive interfaces for the navigation of music and communications. The iPad will have the same effect on the home control industry.

I would anticipate that within 12 months (if not much sooner) Crestron, AMX, Lutron, Control4, Savant, ELAN, Exception Innovations, HAI (you name the home control company) will have a rich Apple iPad interface as one of the key control platforms in their software offerings, and our clients will love them. In fact, I predict that clients that were previously lukewarm about our total home control offerings will rethink this decision and now opt for these control solutions because of the beauty and elegance of the home control interface running on an Apple iPad.

Two years ago my company, cyberManor, witnessed the compelling effect that a web-enabled multi-touch screen can have as a home control interface when we introduced the Windows-based HP Touchsmart to the family members in our Ultimate Installation competition home. The new iPad offers the same rich graphical interface on a much less expensive platform.

I have already specified multiple iPads on some of our larger Control4 jobs, where each will sit in a chargeable cradle in a given room or zone displaying the family photos in standby mode. Once they are picked up by our client and rotated into a landscape position they will display the Control4 touchscreen display. Here’s why the iPad will become the home control device of choice:

1. The screen. It has a gorgeous 9.7-inch LED back-lit display. Application icons, photos, and album cover art leap off the screen. Plus, for those over 45, the large letters and icons are fabulous. Album cover art is back! This display makes sparkling cover art a “must have” when looking at your music collection.

2. Speed and ergonomics. The iPad is only 0.5 inches thick, a mere 1.5lb, fast, and powerful. The touchscreen is responsive, fast, and super easy to use. Navigating a large music collection is much improved, and the ability to search for tracks, artists, and albums is much more effective with the larger keyboard. No one will mind holding this device to find and play their favorite music.

cyberManor has already
cyberManor has already specified multiple iPads on some of its larger Control4 jobs. Once they are picked up by the client and rotated into a landscape position, they will display the Control4 touchscreen display.

3. Apps. We all know there are tons of apps, but what is emerging is the number of applications for the home—lighting, temperature control, digital content management, whole house, you name it.

In the future, I believe that the iPad will have a USB port, adding to its configurability as a controller, and, I hope, for IR control. Expect the iPad to continue with additional features and functions.

My client and local entrepreneur Jeff Tedesco of ReadyToPlay tested the iPad applications for Sonos control and as a control device for iTunes. Both the Sonos and iTunes applications (free downloads) now enable users to navigate music with a full-screen user interface, which is a significant advantage over the iPod Touch or iPhone. The iPad’s screen size, speed, and the ability to type in searches via a large keyboard make it a highly usable control pad.

The one shortcoming encountered in using the iPad for home control is that if you push the home button you end up back in the home screen and then have to tap the icon for the control application again. So there are often a few taps before you are controlling your system. It’s also annoying to have to unlock the screen just to tweak a volume control. My hope is that someone is already working on a software fix for this.

As our economy begins to rebound, the Apple iPad may just be the “shot in the arm” that will renew the vigor and health that we have always enjoyed. It has never been a more exciting time to be a custom electronics integrator. Thank you Apple.

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