Control4, Where Are You?

Last month, however, the company finally started shipping finalized products and plans to ship more in the coming months. While some integrator partners initially slammed the company for changing the ship dates—and for not updating them on product availability—many now say it is improving in these areas and that the products they have received are performing well.

Control4, Salt Lake City, says it already has shipped products to meet all or most orders for its touch panels, wired keypads, wireless light dimmers and switches, 16-channel amps, 16x16 Matrix switches, table docks, contact relay extenders and its Media Controller, which combines a media server with a whole-house control unit. The company expects to ship additional devices such as wireless keypads this month, Home Theater Controller and wireless outlet dimmers and switches in July, and wireless thermostats and wireless keypads in August.

The various ship dates has meant that some of Control4's partners have received all of the products they asked for, while others are still waiting for part or all of their orders. Scott Stewart, director of sales and service at integrator Cinema and Sound, Plainfield, Ill., says his company received all of the products it ordered and is installing them in the house of an employee as a test run. "This is a very high-quality product for a product that's just out the door," Stewart says. "There are a few rough edges, definitely, but we've found rough edges on products that have been out in the real world for two, three or four years." Stewart says he's impressed with the products and that tests have gone smoothly. Cinema and Sound has already sold a few systems to customers and plans to install them soon. Control4 has been responsive when given suggestions on how to improve the products, Stewart adds.

Ray Kucenas, COO of Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based integrator Castle Tek Systems, was less enthusiastic. One and a half weeks after the ship date, Castle Tek was still waiting for 80 percent of the devices it ordered and was not told when the remaining products would arrive. "[They] again fell short on their promise," Kucenas says. "I was hoping to already start using this [stuff], but now I'm still in limbo." Kucenas says he has one customer patiently waiting for a Control4 system but that it has missed out on several sales that could have closed with Control4 systems if they had arrived earlier.

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Glen Mella, chief marketing officer of Control4, says the company has not been as proactive as it could have been but says it is improving. In mid-May the company sent a memo to its partners informing them of future ship dates and has posted a secure dealer Web site that is frequently updated with product availability information, Mella says.

Dana Barron, CEO of North Haven, Conn.-based integrator HB Communications also accepted the delays. While the low cost of Control4's products compared to competing systems appeals to him, "we already have enough business with Crestron. Plus, we don't want to be the beta site," Barron says. HB has been carefully promoting the products without specifically selling them until the products have been proven in the field.

Mark Morgan, vice president of marketing and co-founder of Control4, attributes the initial change of ship dates to several factors. The company was trying to launch two dozen SKUs at once and had difficulty completing all the products in time. It also had made significant changes to some of its products early on in response to partners' feedback of test units. Morgan also notes that the Control4 products are some of the first to use the Zigbee wireless networking standard. The company had several challenges with the technology that needed to be ironed out before products could be finished.

"As with many great technology stories, it takes awhile to get them as right as you want them to be," Morgan says.