I went ahead and took a look at the videos on your website, and to be honest, I didn't really like what I saw. One of your staff made a comment, something to the effect that we as custom installers and integrators often like technologies that we would like in our own house, but we don't think of what the client would like in theirs... I'm trying to think of the profile of a typical client in our market, an I don't think that the Lifeware solution is really fitting to what they would want. In the videos, I saw a significant amount of navigation through menus. The demonstrators, would have to go up to select a function, then navigate down to select a source/zone/function, then go to another menu to set levels... now some of this simply is not 1-button operation, but many things, such as media selection, should be 1-button interaction. A computer gives you menu driven operation, that is the existing paradigm. An automation system should give you activity based operation. Just because your videos did not show 1 button operation does not mean that it is there. Does LW offer remote controls for watching TV where the user can press a single button to start watching TV?
MCE is a technology that some will like and some won't. What is the advantage of using LW for both the front end controls and the back end equipment? Why wouldn't a Crestron, AMX, RTI dealer simply build systems like they would otherwise, and for MCE clients, add a server and XBOX360 endpoints. For Apple clients add XServe/XSRaid and Apple TV endpoints. For people that don't want media servers (there are lots of those) a high end DVD player and high end audio source.
In about 2 years when MS releases its next version of Windows or when a non-MS vendor becomes the leader in (likely DRM equipped) online purchased media, is LW prepared to ditch the MCE paradigm of controls and embrace the next standard, or will the consumer be locked into a the existing paradigm... Is the consumer being unwise by investing a large sum of cash into a product that inherently only has about a 2 year lifespan? Wouldn't a more generic control solution be wiser, one that is modular so that parts can be removed and upgraded when / if necessary?
It is easier to criticize a product, so don't let me take away my appreciation for the work that it has taken to get the product to where it is now. However, I am far from being convinced that this is the direction that I want to go... I don't see any evidence in my market of this product gaining any momentum (which doesn't mean that it is not) and am seriously questioning the process by which consumers will go to BB to be advised on LW hardware/software. You an I both know that certain lighting systems will work while others won't. How is the BB's ability to "manage the client" and coordinate with AEC professionals to allow automation with their subsystems compare with the ability of a traditionaly custom installer. Even if you have a healthy network of custom installers, I'm not sure that the BB relationship is a healthy one. I can understand the desire to increase public awareness of the product, but if it exists at BB, you will be catering to the big box mentalities, no matter what your strategy is. People's perceived value - buying it from BB vs working with a competent integrator will always be about the bottom line and not the value of the system as a whole. Your initial order to BB just to provide stock must be massive - probably more than some control system companies ship in a year.
What percentage of these systems to you expect to be sold through BB vs traditional installers/integrators? If someone were to buy it from BB, would BB do the installation or is it expected that the homeowner would be a DIY? Once the system is installed, who is the first point of contact for support? Would it be LW or the party that did the installation? What would the return policy be on hardware if someone purchased it from BB and decided that it was not the product for them? If I were a consumer, what would be the manufacturer's warranty on hardware / software?