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Less is More

In our business, less is more…half of the time.

For example, control systems like AMX and Crestron offer us powerful platforms that can administrate control for thousands of installed devices. When we sell one of these systems, the configurations and programming possibilities are almost infinite. Their cool new touchscreen controllers let us design thousands of pages full of beautiful buttons for our clients, and their touchscreens have evolved into awesome color displays with full-motion video and some now function as stand-alone computer processors.

As your salesman sits with your new client and goes over the blueprints for their fancy new home, he is well aware of these endless possibilities. He knows that you could install cool automation tricks. Like when the homeowner opens the bathroom door after 11 p.m., the system could gently ramp the lights up to 10 percent, start the fan and have the speakers announce, “Youve got mail. Would you like to review it or check your stock portfolio while you sit here?” But just because we can do all of these things, is it in our best interest to do so? Is this what the client really wants and needs?

I believe that with home control, less is more. Whenever I design touchscreen pages, I limit the control for each component to one simple user page. That means I do not put all functionality on the screen. I do not include six pages per component with every possible menu choice, setup, video levels, mode, etc. The client wants to push a single button and have the system perform. He wants a no-brainer. That is why he hires us to simplify the operations and limit the choices. That is why we call it custom installation.

Speaking of limiting the choices, I never put all of the music channels on a clients systemno heavy metal or hip-hop for my older clients. If you want to give your clients access to everything, then just throw the 12 remote controls that came with the gear on the coffee table and let him figure it out.

OK, so less is more. The whole trend in components and speakers today is less. Checking the latest consumer electronics ads in the Sunday paper show how the trend to plasma has created big demand for tiny speaker systems. Ultra flat and mini speakers are very popular and so are cheap MP3 players that kids wear around town. Even with their popularity, in this case, less is less.

Custom home installation began with the desire to provide home A/V systems with excellence in sight and sound. Unlike a bank, the music we send around the house can and should evoke an emotional response.

The day that the systems we install become indistinguishable from those at Best Buy is when we will all be out of business. We cannot afford to sell and install cheap mini speaker systems in our home theaters that sound like garbage. We will lose our individuality and put ourselves out of business.

Sony is the number one A/V equipment giant. The sales of all CEDIA members are tiny compared to Sonys worldwide market. Yet, Sony is in the midst of two financial battles. First, they experienced major losses due to how fast prices are dropping in todays CE market. From the time that they introduce a new product, prices begin falling. Think of a progressive-scan DVD that was $1,000 a few years ago and is now $50. Second, due to new digital manufacturing methods, it has become very hard for Sony to distinguish its products from the rest of the market.

Even as small companies, we face the exact same two challenges. As new products and opportunities enter the market, we must continually make choices based on the overall vision that position our companies and determine our client base.

If we are to have a bright future as an industry, we must continue to lead the way to define the state of the art of what quality home entertainment systems should be. We must continue to design profitable systems that are a little too cutting edge… a little too expensive for the masses and offer benefits only custom can provide.