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Our interest in the Crestron's new TPMC-10 has started another snowball. The panel, which looks to be a pretty darn slick choice, is supplied by ViewSonic. The ViewSonic model, when purchased directly, is avaialble bundled with a third party automation software (MPlus) and a Global Cache ethernet to Ir/Serial box. I'm meeting with a representative of MPlus next week about this product offering, to reiew the product and ask a few questions, but I can't find any info on the software or the company for that matter (save their own press releases). So I'm wondering, does anyone here have any experience with this outfit? (Dean, I know you work pretty closely with this Global Cache stuff, are there any glaring issues or obvious tipoffs that would indicate a likely success or failure of the platform? ) Are there any questions the group would like to ask?



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Any luck with learning more about their software? I have been looking over the downloads on their website and the cover art looks to be similar to DVD Profiler - so I was curious is you had any luck learning more about them.


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Global Cache is rock solid--nothing to them, really, just adapters for relay, IR and serial controls. The intelligence comes from the software drivers, written by MPlus and others.

MPlus has been around in different guises for a few years and the system looks to be pretty decent. But don't confuse with Crestron's Isys TPMC. Viewsonic and Crestron worked closely together to tweak the platform so the panel is control-centric rather than PC/Internet centric.

See two stories below from CE Pro magazine.



MPlus Regroups with Viewsonic as Partner

03/04 - FRAMINGHAM, Mass. - Back when MPlus Integration debuted in 2002, the company was showing one of the most custom-oriented IP-based control systems on the market. The MPlus engineers would bundle the drivers and applications with subsystems and functions individualized for dealers.

MPlus was looking for just a handful of experienced dealers ... whom they never quite enlisted.

Fast forward to today, and the new MPlus has perhaps the first viable home-theater control system for the mainstream market. Joseph Storm took the helm as MPlus CEO last year, scrapping the original, onerous business model and creating a more streamlined solution that initially will be sold with a Smart Display device from Viewsonic, a leader in display devices.

"We're going specifically for home-theater control, including lighting and other features in the theater," said Storm at CES, where he was demonstrating the MPlus product in the Viewsonic booth.

Residing on a home PC, the MPlus software can be accessed via any Web browser, but is bundled with a Viewsonic AirPanel Smart Display. These touchscreen displays, conceived by Microsoft two years ago, serve as mobile monitors for host computers. A tough sell to the mainstream market, Smart Displays nevertheless have been the IP interface of choice for many integrators installing PC-based automation systems.

Rather than slash prices on its inventory of Smart Displays, Viewsonic decided to bundle the units with an appropriate service. "We wanted to find a killer app for Smart Displays," says Viewsonic's Russell Fearon, "and we wanted to hit the sweet spot of the market."

The so-called Viewsonic MPlus Home Entertainment Center, including Smart Display, docking station and MPlus software, is expected to retail for $1,599.

That price, according to Fearon, leaves "great margins" for the custom installer, who will have exclusive access to the product.



Crestron Blends Internet, Control for Best Consumer Experience

“People make Web tablets, people make wireless touchscreens. Ours is the only one that includes both products, seamlessly integrated together,†says Randy Klein, executive vice president of Crestron.

Crestron’s new Isys I/O TPMC-10 serves as a full-featured Crestron touchpanel, but it runs on a modified version of Win CE that enables Internet connectivity and other basic Windows applications.

So what’s the difference between a Web tablet, a traditional Crestron touchpanel and the new Isys I/O? After all, Crestron’s e-control2 software already allows consumers to control their systems through any standard Web browser. Why not use one of those?

A traditional Web tablet “does not provide a good consumer experience,†says Fred Bargetzi, vice president of technical sales for Crestron. “It can take up to 30 seconds to wake up from ‘sleep’ mode, and when it does wake up, you see a Windows desktop. … Try getting from the desktop to the ‘change-channel’ screen. It isn’t easy.â€

On the other hand, Crestron’s TPMC WiFi touchpanel was designed with control applications in mind. When the unit goes to sleep (to preserve battery life), it boots up in just a few seconds. Furthermore, upon wakeup, the screen reverts to the Crestron control page, rather than the Windows desktop. In fact, users never see the Windows desktop unless they deliberately call it up.

Instead, PC-oriented applications such as Web browsing, emailing and viewing files (MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Adobe Acrobat), are accessed through unobtrusive menus and icons. Even these applications are designed to work seamlessly within the Crestron control framework. For example, when a computer application is launched, the window pops up in the center of the screen, preserving access to control icons located around the tablet’s perimeter. The window is fixed, meaning users cannot accidentally drag it around the screen—a problem with everyday Web tablets.

“Watching TV now becomes an interactive experience with the TPMC-10,†says Bargetzi. “You can channel surf and vote for your favorite ‘American Idol’ star without leaving your couch--just launch IE directly from the panel.â€

As already established, the TPMC-10 makes a useful Crestron controller. It also makes a fine Web browser. In addition, the unit doubles as an email station, with its embedded Microsoft Inbox. “You can access email immediately,†says Bargetzi. “You don’t have to get up and get your Blackberry [handheld messaging device].â€

The touchpanel also serves as a portable media player, with its onboard Windows Media Player. A pair of 10-watt biamplified speakers provides hi-fi sound and the 800 x 600 active-matrix display enables high-quality video streaming.

All of these applications—email, Web browsing, home control, and A/V streaming—are available without the need for a connected computer. “After all,†says Bargetzi, “What good is WiFi if you can't access the Internet and all it has to offer directly from the touchscreen without the need for slave computers or clunky screen-scraping?â€

Even the ergonomics of the touchpanel bear out Crestron’s attention to the user experience. Unlike the traditional flat Web tablet that lies flush on a table, the TPMC-10 features a contoured base that angles the screen for easy viewing, and allows users to easily pick up the lightweight unit. A notch on the base keeps the touchpanel balanced on a couch potato’s lap.

Placing the panel into its optional docking station provides a convenient charging solution with simplified connectivity to any wired USB mouse and keyboards, including Crestron’s own branded accessories.

The TPMC-10 was developed in conjunction with Viewsonic, which “spent months modifying Win CE to our specifications,†says Bargetzi. “Crestron also spent months modifying our product to create a seamless Internet/home control solution.â€

It seems the effort was worth the while, according to Klein. “We have more back orders for the TPMC-10 than for any product we’ve ever shipped.â€

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I have a moderate amount of interest in MPlus also... it appears there is much more momentum with Control4 at this point.

I sent an email to MPlus inquiring about a dealership and I look forward to their response.

Take care,

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