Crestron Left CEDIA. Get Over It.

Breakups hurt. But usually once the sting wears off we see it was all for the better. So if you count yourself amongst those saddened to see Crestron's departure from CEDIA 2016, I have some advice for you: get over it.

CEPro broke the story earlier this week, and industry reaction has been predictably strong. Conflicting arguments accuse one side or the other of having "lost it's way". Some indulge in pure speculation about a personal rift due to Vin Bruno's recent departure from Crestron to join CEDIA. And so far all we've heard from the involved parties has been has been in the form of glittering generalities, the rough equivalent of "I hope we can still be friends". 

From CEDIA's View

Does Crestron's departure impact the show? From a revenue standpoint clearly the answer is yes. Crestron's gigantic front-and-center presence could not have come cheap. Taking it one step further some have also predicted a substantial decline in attendance as a direct result. It's highly unlikely that this will bear out. 

If your decision whether or not to attend CEDIA hinges solely on one manufacturer then you're missing the point. CEDIA is about covering ground, re-evaluating your toolbox, and networking like crazy. There were 510 exhibitors at CEDIA 2015. Even my most valuable trade partners got at most 1 hour of my time on the show floor, maybe a bit more if free drinks were involved. To me Crestron's departure means little more than an extra hour to go discover something new in 2016. I suspect the vast majority of last year's 18,000+ attendees would agree. 

It's also been suggested that Crestron's departure may pave the way for other large exhibitors to pull up the stakes. Highly doubtful. It's far more likely that Crestron's competitors will view this as a huge opportunity. I can practically hear the pitches already: "Unlike some of our competitors (nudge nudge, wink wink), we actually care about the resi channel". 

In Defense of Crestron

Lest this sound like a hit-piece, disparaging Crestron for their decision, I'll say that I actually think the move makes sense, at least economically. Crestron is the biggest game in town. If they want to stay relevant in residential, which I believe they do, they don't need  to spend gobs of cash at CEDIA to do it. Apple doesn't go to CES and they seem to be doing OK. 

Much of the speculation around Crestron's commitment to the channel revolves around the fact that residential sales account for only around 20% of their business. But how many companies that you know could simply shrug off a 20% decline in revenue? Crestron will continue to make robust hardware, and plenty of residential integrators will be willing to write them checks for it. I suspect Crestron will be happy to cash them.  

So What is This Really About?

Crestron’s director of corporate communications, Linda Rigano, was quoted in the CEPro article, stating that "[Crestron's] strategies are not the same as those exhibited by [CEDIA] today". Another anonymous source in the same article says of Crestron that "they don’t think CEDIA is doing enough in the luxury market" (a message I've heard from many integrators as well). 

Being perceived as the luxury brand was a consistent theme from Crestron at CEDIA 2015, as we discussed at length back in October. Which brings us to the crux of the issue. CEDIA's job is to promote home technology, not just luxury home technology. I, for one, welcome with open arms the increasing number of consumer products being shown on the floor.

The tides have shifted. The lines between DIY and professional home technology have becoming increasingly blurry. The vast majority of home technology pros, those of us who aren't installing systems in mansions and yachts, have been forced to pay attention. So why shouldn't CEDIA? 

It's (not) About Luxury...

Even more important is the question of how we define "luxury" in the context of something like a control system? Selling luxury automation and control used to go something like this: "we can make all this stuff work together like no one else". Well guess what... now lots of companies can do that, including an ever-increasing number of sub-$1,000, and straight-to-consumer systems. "Luxury control" means very little to consumers. It either works, or it doesn't. Not very glamorous is it?

High-end residential installations aren't going anywhere, and Crestron will stay relevant in that market for as long as they choose to. However those installations will represent an increasingly small percentage of the total home technology picture as the unstoppable proliferation of down-market solutions continues. CEDIA's decision to take this into account by embracing all segments of the market, including I might add luxury, is the right one.

It's Crestron's prerogative to disagree. It's yours too. But I'd suggest you get over it. See you in Dallas! 

- JG