Originally Posted by ezlotogura
You continue the same argument we've had in various threads. I've given many examples outside of the audio ones given here where the big 3 miss the mark. If Google home fits your bill that's great. Its sold in mass market stores for a reason, it has broad appeal to the masses. That does not mean it can do everything a CI system can do. Beats Headphones work for the masses too but I wouldn't be caught with one. I demo'd them 2 times and I think they are rubbish. And its not a $$ thing - a pair of Etymotic is probably equal to or maybe cheaper than most Beats and pound for pound is a way better headphone. Yet Beats is mass produced and everyone loves their Beats. Enjoy what works for you. When I got into this hobby back in 2014 Google/Amazon/Apple did not hold a candle to Savant/C4/RTI, etc. Has the line blurred a bit, sure. But the advancements I've made in my house and what it can achieve to help my lifestyle is still exceeding what the big box solutions offer these days. The biggest issue for me with Google/Amazon/Alexa and the like is that its a cloud based system. I prefer a local controller. And that is where my issues start with the big box solutions.
Beating up on Beats is easy - they are overpriced for what they deliver. But having an open competitive market for devices is important for delivering options to people at different price points. This is my big issue with Control4, Crestron etc... They don't make their products available at retail, but you have to go through an integrator which adds a lot of cost to the system. Sure, they can tailor it and program it to do all sorts of things that cheaper CE equipment can't do today. But at a much higher cost that limits the market size for the product.
And adding individual components like a new wireless speaker should be easy. It's not that the dealer takes 30 secs to do it, its that I have to call the dealer and give them whatever info required to add it is. it should be automatic, as it is with Chromcast, or Sonos, etc... I don't want to spend my time dealing with a person to do something that software should enable me to do easily and without hassle. That's on top of whatever they charge me for it. And if that dealer goes out of business, then adding things gets even more complicated.
What would be great is if the C4 or Crestron guys stored all the configs in the cloud, and would allow me to swap or replace a CI trivially and have the new CI have access to every piece of config that the old one did. or even bid out a change or new capability securely without ever having to talk to someone. That would allow a competitive market and prevent the customer from being screwed over when someone quits. How many times have we seen someone come on one of these forums saying they bought a house with a Crestron, etc.. system that needs modification and no one can change anything on it without starting from scratch?
What Google and Amazon and even Apple are trying to do is make that same capability be available to a much larger number of people at a much lower price, using software to do the programming of the system instead of an integrator. Today, a C4 or Crestron system can do way more than a Google etc... system can, though at a much higher price. But that gap is a lot smaller than it was a year ago. And that gap will continue to shrink because the capability growth in the software driven ecosystem is much greater than in C4 etc... In 3-4 years, I think you'll capabilities in these systems way better than what integrator systems can do. You see it already in areas of voice control.
I said in a prior post the evolution is away from intermediaries. They used to be volume controls and keypads and touchscreens, but now are in apps like the C4 app you use. But it's hard for small companies to keep up with the level of integration needed. For example, Apple music streaming isn't support as far as I can tell in the C4 music app. Sonos support for multiple audio streaming sources is much more comprehensive than C4's, and you can get speakers from Sonos that all use that app and don't need to be hardwired into a system or require a CI to add, and have a nice integrated package, just like Chromecast equipped speakers. So if you really wanted to interact with a 3rd party app for all your music content, I think Sonos is a much better implementation than any integrator based system can provide.
But the big problem for CI's is a declining share of the total addressable market. There is an analog here in what happens with Steinway. HBS did a nice study on how Steinway went from market leader to bankruptcy. They were the leader in pianos, but as Kawai and Yamaha entered the market, they took share from Steinway, initially from cost conscious customers who weren't good piano players, but incrementally improved their product to take more and more share away from the bottom. Eventually Steinway was left with only the highest end users, and had to keep raising prices which exacerbated the market shift. The moral is it's very very hard to survive as a highend only manufacturer in a space where volume drives so much momentum. And C4 Crestron etc... have the added burden of having to keep the CI's in business with their cost structure as well.
Sure, Google, amazon etc... are not capable of doing everything a C4, Crestron etc... system can (today), but they are taking more and more of the addressable market away from CI the ecosystem, leaving them with only higher end customers to support them. As those capabilities get better and better, the needs of more and more customers will be met my the much cheaper mainstream solutions, and that's only exacerbated by Google and Apple's control of the mobile device ecosystem, which in turn is driving more and more content into these platforms. Just look at AT&T's announcement that they are not going to launch any more satellites, and their future is all OTT based. even their new set top box for DirecTV now is Android TV based.
You can see the future I think of C4 in Sonos. initially, Sonos worked intently with CI's to get Sonos equipment deployed. But in order to survive, Sonos doubled down on a retail strategy, even going after selling directly to the end customers of CI installed systems to sell them speakers etc... making those guys really unhappy.
I'm not saying that today CI based systems aren't the answer for some consumers. But they are the right answer for many fewer consumers than they were 5 or 10 years ago. And that trend is only getting stronger. Just look at CES this week and the amount of integration happening with Google assistant and Cast, Airplay2 (from apple) and Alexa.
I also don't like cloud dependency, but I can understand why it's needed for things like voice recognition - you are not going to be able to match Google's datacenters in terms of their ability to understand speech with servers in your house. And if your content is all coming in and being streamed over the Internet, it is not that big an issue to have the control being done remotely as well. I prefer to buy my music in CD's and rip it and have it all local with playback with Plex and other apps, but my kids and even my wife ignore that and stream everything.
But you should go get a Chromecast Audio device and try it out. You might like it....