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PC MEETS HOME THEATER IN INDIANAPOLIS; COMPUTER-HOME ENTERTAINMENT INTEGRATION TO TAKE CENTER STAGE AT 2004 CEDIA EXPO.

Byline: Michael Rudnick

INDIANAPOLIS-As the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) Expo approaches its 15th year, manufacturers, installers and retailers alike are gearing up to absorb as much information as possible about the evolving industry of home entertainment and personal computer integration.

Bill Skaer, CEDIA Expo chairman by night and president and chief executive officer of Eric Grundelman's Cool A/V in Dallas by day, expects more than 470 manufacturers to flock to the Expo scheduled Sept. 8 to 12, eclipsing the roughly 420 that showed last year. As the custom installation industry expands, so does the Expo, which Skaer said has outgrown the 450,000-square-foot space allocated by the Indiana Convention Center and RCA Dome and will move to a 675,000-square-foot Denver space in 2006.

So what will draw 20,000-plus to CEDIA's cramped quarters this year? Skaer points to a heavy emphasis on new media storage and management solutions, many of which are made possible via integration with the PC. "Computer people must realize that we don't all listen to music with headphones attached to our PCs, but via quality integrated home audio," said Skaer.

Don't let other new and growing custom-installed home entertainment categories get lost in the integration shuffle this year, however. Skaer explained that there is an expanding contingent of manufacturers focusing on flat-panel televisions, not to mention a renewed focus on all levels of front projectors.

Bang & Olufsen, one of the few retailer/ manufacturers to exhibit, is returning to the floor after more than a six-year hiatus with integration in mind. The high-end audio/video company will push its BeoLink PC 2, a software and hardware system that connects any Microsoft Windows-based PC to a home entertainment system. The $380 BeoLink allows the user to browse and manage CD, DVD and other media files on the computer hard drive with a remote control and play files on the home entertainment system utilizing the same remote.

"People want PC and home theater integration, but it has to be easy to access and operate," said Zean Nielsen, director of marketing for Bang & Olufsen North America.

While Bang & Olufsen is leaping into new integration territory at the show, the audio/video specialist will not forget its bread and butter $10,000-plus plasma televisions and high-end loudspeakers at the show, said Nielsen.

Kenwood is leveraging PC/home theater integration for a multi-room audio and video solution, labeled the Multizone Solution, which it will be unveiling at the Expo. The new system utilizes PC-based software to organize DVDs and CDs within Kenwood's high-end 400-disc changers.

"With the multizone, users will be able to send video and audio information to multiple disc changers throughout the home," said John Hwang, research-and-development product manager for home entertainment at Kenwood.

The Multizone can organize discs within a changer by artist, title and within music genre, noted Hwang. Music and video enthusiasts will have to wait until at least June of 2005 for this system.

Sirius Satellite Radio is returning to the Expo for its second year to learn about integration with home-control systems, as part of a larger effort to expand its dedicated home audio presence.

"We are prepared from a tuner and software module standpoint to integrate with home control systems," said Bill Brown, director of product management for in-home products at Sirius. "Sirius wants to let the [installer industry] know that we are taking home seriously. The content is there, and we have the hardware to support it," he said.

Skaer noted that attendees should look out for media management newcomer to the show, Control4. The home automation company will debut a line of wired and wireless IP-based products based on a system in which one media controller can control all audio/video devices in the home, lighting and home security.

"The system is customizable to how far in automation the consumer wants to go. As an example, one may choose to simply install a controlled wireless dimmer for $100," said Jim Guest, director of business development at Control4.

Guest explained that Control4 chose CEDIA as a stage to debut its system because the Expo is attended by "expert integrators in the industry and the entire line will help dealers/installers to become more profitable." He further explained, "We want to give installers the opportunity to add sales to a home theater install and increase their profit."

CEDIA's educational seminar offerings further reflect a concerted industry effort towards home automation and integration. Installers may stop by the "Building a Digital Media Ready Home Network" session in which new releases of Microsoft Windows Media Connect and Media Center Extender will be discussed and demonstrated as components of PC-based distributed media. If attendees miss that session, they may grab a seat at "Home Networking 101: Introduction to Home Networking for the Custom Installer."

The rapidly growing world of flat-panel televisions will share the spotlight with home entertainment integration at the Expo this year, marked by the return of market-share leader Sharp.

Sharp's exhibit, sprinkled throughout with about 50 different LCD televisions from the AQUOS line, will be designed to emulate a multi-level home. "Our exhibit setup is targeted to a CEDIA crowd that concentrates on how they can take our product and integrate it into consumers' homes," said Bob Scaglione, senior vice president of marketing at Sharp.

The consumer electronics giant for the first time will display its line of new 45-inch screen AQUOS LCDs. The $8,499 line, which shipped to retailers last month, is Sharp's largest LCD screen size, features built-in ATSC tuners and is cable-card compatible.

Even traditional audio/video pure-play manufacturers are stepping into the world of PC/home theater integration. Sharp is a prime example, as the company will display its Open AQUOS LCD television at CEDIA. The 20- and 15-inch Open AQUOS models feature dual PC Card slots, allowing consumers to view digital still photos, listen to digital audio files (WMA, MP3), insert a Personal Video Recorder card or Wi-Fi card, or watch video clips.

Caption(s): As the custom-installation industry expands, so does the Expo, which has outgrown the 450,000-square-foot space allocated by the Indianapolis Convention Center and will move to Denver's 675,000-square-foot Downtown Convention Center in 2006. / 1. Bang & Olufsen will promote its BeoLink PC 2 at CEDIA, a software and hardware system that connects any Microsoft Windows-based PC to a home entertainment system. / 2. Control4 will debut a line of wired and wireless information processing-based products with which one media controller can control all audio/video devices in the home, lighting and home security. / 3. Sharp is making a play at home theater/PC integration with its Open AQUOS that it will display at the Expo.
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Comment:PC MEETS HOME THEATER IN INDIANAPOLIS; COMPUTER-HOME ENTERTAINMENT INTEGRATION TO TAKE CENTER STAGE AT 2004 CEDIA EXPO.
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 6, 2004
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