Home automation vendors are having a tough time selling their own touchscreens against the low-priced elegant iPad.
The new InfinityEdge breaks the (plastic) mold that has defined Control4’s industrial design since 2004.
The 5- and 7-inch (diagonal) screens feature edge-to-edge capacitive glass and a low profile, like the iPad. And they’re priced at $599 and $899, almost like the iPad.
But the devices act like Control4 touchscreens, dedicated to the control of lights, security, thermostats, audio/video and other home systems. Since they’re compatible with Control4 OS 2.0, they also can be used to access a growing roster of apps from the 4Store.
InfinityEdge screens are powered over Ethernet or AC power, and feature both wired and Wi-Fi connectivity options.
Pricing is ‘Unheard of’
In the press release, Control4 CEO Will West says the InfinityEdge touchscreens offer price points that are “unheard of in the custom residential industry.”
Such pricing (dealers maintain standard Control4 margins) will be required to tip the scales towards dedicated touchscreens in an iPad era, says Control4 president Glen Mella in an interview with CE Pro.
Control4 has never felt that the iPad would put an end to dedicated touchscreens from home-control vendors, Mella explains.
But, he says, “The iPad may spell the end of really expensive touchscreens. It’s hard to look at a customer with a straight face and tell them it [home automation touchscreen] is $6,000.” (Vantage was right!)
Control4 is a huge fan of the iPad, says Mella. “We were available with our Control4 My Home app on the day the iPad shipped. Frankly, we’re selling a lot of it.”
But in many circumstances, the InfinityEdge has the edge.
InfinityEdge Screen vs. iPad
Flash: The Control4 screens have one distinct advantage over the iPad when it comes to home control: native support for OS 2.0 and Flash.
“I don’t want to get into the whole Flash/non-Flash thing,” Mella says of iPad’s (non)support for the platform, “but our 2.0 release utilizes Flash for animation. Because the touchscreen leverages Flash, all of the 4Store apps can be exposed through the Infinity touchscreens, but today not through the iPad.
Free Control4 app: To use an iPad as a Control4 interface, you’ll need to fork out $99 for the Control4 My Home app.. Naturally, the Control4 OS is already built into the InfinityEdge.
Mount included: You might pay up to $500 for an in-wall/on-wall iPad dock from a third-party provider. With the InfinityEdge, a mount is part of the package. There’s only one SKU for the back-box, which accommodates both the 5- and 7-inch screens.
And, unlike the typical iPad + mount combo, the InfinityEdge “doesn’t grow feet and walk away,” Mella says.
The Control4 screen does not exactly install flush to the wall, but Mella tells us it protrudes less than one-half an inch, which is pretty close.
“Hard” buttons: When it comes to home control, the iPad has one big fail: no hard buttons for dedicated functions. The InfinityEdge features four such buttons – they’re part of the capacitive touch screen so they’re not exactly hard – that can be customized just like the four genuinely hard buttons on Control4’s existing in-wall screens.
Add it up: iPad: $499 device + $250 wall mount + $99 Control4 My Home App = $848 (just $51 less than the 7-inch Control4 InfinityEdge).
On the other hand, the iPad is bigger, it’s mobile, it streams video, it has millions of awesome apps, it’s still useful if you switch to a different home automation system, and it’s still cheaper.
Coming Soon: Intercom Functionality
Finally, Control4 is adding intercom functionality to its home-control system, and the InfinityEdge screens are the end points.
The intercom feature is a new application for OS 2.0. As such, it only works with the new touchscreens, which have a built-in mic and speaker.
The intercom module is sold separately for $499.
Mella says the application is comparable to any high-end residential intercom system, with room-to room communications, whole-house paging, listen-in capabilities and more. And, by the way, the intercom functionality is one of the reasons that the touchscreens aren’t recessed into the wall.
The 7-inch InfinityEdge is expected to ship this month, and the 5-inch model will ship shortly thereafter.
Control4 will phase out its existing in-wall screens, but maintain some inventory for customers who haven’t (or aren’t going to) migrate to OS 2.0.
As for table-top versions of the InfinityEdge, “we haven’t announced anything yet,” Mella says.
We assume they’re on the way, but don’t expect Control4 to simply build a dock for the in-walls.
“We sell portable screens today,” Mella says. “We’re not just taking our in-wall and putting it on a table.”