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Speculating on the Control4/SnapAV Merger

Ten predictions for what this merger will mean for the companies and dealers.

If you didn’t have a “What in the actual F***?!?!” moment last week when you heard the bombshell announcement that SnapAV and Control4 were merging, well, I’m guessing you’re either lying or just not in touch with this industry. I got the announcement on my phone while driving, and when I first glanced, my assumption was that Control4 — a publicly traded company — bought Snap, but then when I was able to read the rest of the article and saw that Snap was purchasing Control4 for $23.91 a share, my first thought was, “SnapAV had $680 Million…in cash?!?” (I had forgotten that they were previously acquired by Hellman & Friedman, a private equity firm, back in 2017.)

Related: SnapAV and Control4 Announce Merger

I chatted with Kordon Vaughn, Control4’s senior director of product marketing, briefly about the merger shortly after it was announced and he said both companies “really value our dealer relationships, and think a lot of good can come from this merger.”

So, beyond lovey-dovey marketing speak, what can we expect to see from a combined Control4 and SnapAV? As someone who is both a Control4 and Snap customer, here are my 10 predictions for what this merger will mean for the companies and dealers:

1. Pakedge Goes Away
SnapAV has spent a lot of time, effort, and resources to build, perfect, and promote its Araknis brand of networking components, and now it is the go-to networking solution for many integrators. The Araknis lineup has very few holes in it (principally there is no WiFi controller for managing multiple WAPs on a project), and there is just too much overlap here with Pakedge for both brands to fight for the same business. And, frankly, I don’t think Pakedge has a big enough name to survive on name recognition alone. I say key Pakedge networking technologies and engineering will be rolled into new Araknis products, resulting in one line with unified support. This extends to Pakedge’s fledgling lineup of IP cameras that don’t seem to offer anything Snap doesn’t already have in spades with Luma and Visualint; however, expect to see those products developing tighter Control4 integration. Also, expect a revamp of Control4’s PCNA (Pakedge Certified Network Administrator) program to focus on Araknis products.

2. Goodbye BakPak (and Invision)
Along with Pakedge being phased out, I think we’ll see BakPak and Ihiji’s Invision, which Control4 previously acquired, rolled into OVrC, which already seems to have broader support, far more integration, and simpler operation. I’d imagine these services will continue for some time to support legacy systems, but would expect new devices to shift exclusively to OVrC. Hopefully the best of all of these will be rolled into OVrC and it will start being hard baked into Control4 systems as well.

3. Triad Likely Remains…But Changed
While Snap has a pretty broad speaker line-up with its Episode products, they don’t have the immense customization options or high-end performance of the Triad line. Plus, unlike Pakedge, Triad is a brand that has a loyal industry following, so I expect it to remain but be positioned as the premium audio offering. However, I think there will be some real consolidation as there’s little reason to offer a Triad Garden Array system or the entry-level architectural models that overlap with what Snap already offers and is very successful with. I think you’ll see the Triad audio distribution pieces continue for a bit, but then likely be replaced with a refresh of the Episode and Autonomic pieces that will likely get improvements such as ICE Power, quicker wake-up times, more power, etc. Along similar lines, I’d expect a consolidation and rebranding between Control4’s HDMI distribution pieces and Snap’s Binary lineup.

4. Control4 Dealers Enjoy Better Shipping
With multiple shipping centers across the country, many Snap dealers already get product within 1-2 days at no extra charge. And, if you qualify for even the lowest SnapAV Partner Rewards program, you get free shipping on every order, no matter how small. This alone has us purchasing from Snap when we have other options, and could end up saving a dealer thousands of dollars in freight charges over a year. Also, the quick delivery times mean you can keep less inventory on hand, and respond to those spontaneous jobs far quicker. Also, expect Control4 family of products to start counting towards your Snap Rewards program! (W00t!)

5. Autonomic Streaming Embeds into Control4
Control4 has been doing a lot over the past few years to position itself as not just an automation controller, but as an entertainment and music distribution hub as well. The biggest hole in Control4’s lineup right now is expanding music streaming beyond five streams, and this is where an Autonomic piece could help flesh out the line-up for larger projects. And while Autonomic already “plays nice” with Control4, I think we’ll see far tighter integration.

6. SnapAV Stops Selling Certain Products
Remember when Control4 purchased Extra Vegetables and then EV’s support for URC was abruptly cut off? Yeah. I think we could see something similar here, with SnapAV dropping URC. Honestly, other than convenience, there’s not a lot of reason for SnapAV to continue selling a direct competitor to Control4. Plus, it’s not like there aren’t tons of other avenues for dealers to purchase URC if needed. I think we might see the same with Clare Controls and possibly even Lutron. Now that Control4 fills both those roles, why put money in a competitor’s pocket?

7. Improved Product Support
SnapAV has rightfully earned kudos for having some of the best service and support around. When you talk to a Snap support agent about a problem, they seem actually interested in getting the problem resolved and your system back and working in the quickest way possible instead of trying to find every possible way you could have screwed up and then making you go through numerous troubleshooting steps you’ve likely already done before resentfully agreeing to issue an RMA. Not so with Snap. Trouble with a camera or speaker? They’ll overnight you a new one. Ordered the wrong product? Send it back. Also, wait times for talking to Snap’s tech support are almost always negligible, and, in my experience, Snap tech support always seems knowledgeable and squared-away. As Control4 has grown, this is an area where they have definitely suffered and lagged behind, and now it isn’t uncommon to wait long minutes on a job before finally getting a call back.

8. Broader Voice Integration
It hasn’t even been a year since Control4 hired Charlie Kindel, founder of Amazon’s Alexa division, as senior vice president of products and services, but in that time, it kind of seems like voice development has stagnated a bit, with no real outward changes. (Admittedly, voice integration is not the sole reason for Kindel’s hire, but, come on, you gotta think it was a pretty nice cherry on top!) And if I’m not mistaken, SnapAV doesn’t currently offer a single product that features Alexa integration. I think we’ll see Kindel’s expertise used here to expand voice through certain Snap offerings, like Autonomic, Araknis, and maybe even Luma or Visualint surveillance.

9. Control4 Continues Requiring Certification
My first concern was that Control4 would suddenly become available to anyone with a Snap account, but I think that fear seems unlikely. That would just glut the market with dealers, which would not only aggravate current dealers, but also result in poor installations from people who haven’t been properly trained, which would stain the brand. Also, there’s precedence in Snap requiring certification to buy a certain line, such as with Clare Controls. However, you might see Control4 products come downstream a bit, with an entry-level, single-room solution that could be more attainable to a wider array of Snap dealers. This would especially make sense if Snap drops URC like I predicted in #6 above. It could also play into Control4’s recent purchase of NEEO, where that product could be positioned to operate as a standalone solution.

10. Clare One Alarm Rebuilt Around Control4
Earlier this year SnapAV entered into an agreement to become the exclusive distributor of Clare Controls products. One of these new products is the Clare One security panel, which seems to be virtually tailor-made for the integration channel to get into security and capture some of that all-important RMR. This security system also features some tight integration with OVrC. It seems reasonable that this Clare/Snap relationship would change (i.e., cease) and that you would see a similarly built and equipped Control4 product. However, Snap’s relationship with Clare seems pretty tight, so maybe they will just acquire them as well and be done with it….

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