Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Column for AV Guys: The Guillotine

I was sooo excited while watching the SuperBowl coverage earlier this month to see that someone finally, FINALLY, crossed the 4-blade razorblade barrier. The long-overdue 5-blade system has finally made its debut. The oh-hum [insert yawn here] market of the 3-blade and 4-blade systems that has dominated the shaving market with has-been gear like Gillette’s Mach3Turbo and the Schick Quattro has finally been shaken up with the 5-blade Gillette Fusion. I ran out and bought one the very next day.

I couldn’t wait. I rushed home, jumped in the shower and began to stroke the Fusion against my face. It was awesome – so I thought. The shave was close and smooth (as the ads claimed) and, all the while, leaving my face without those pesky neck sores that those “other” archaic 3-blade systems used to do – and with a shave that felt even better than the 4-Blade Quattro system I had been using. Five razor sharp blades wrapping themselves around my face.
Ahhhh.

All was awesome until the moment I stepped out of the shower and began to dry myself off. I noticed a thread from my towel seemed to be getting hooked on something that I thought was all gone: a whisker. How could that be? I just used the all-new, diamond-cut, precision-measured Fusion-Technology of the new Gillette 5-blade system. Impossible. But, it was true.

I ran over to the mirror and was stunned to see that was not one, two or even three of these protruding particles of pesky whisker, but potentially dozens or even as many as a hundred. Ugh!

I immediately jumped in my car and headed over to the University of North Carolina’s Quantum Physics department and grabbed a group of students who were clustered around a titanium model of the new 53,000-seat basketball arena being built thanks to the money made from winning the 2005 NCAA basketball tournament.

But, I digress.

I explained my disappointment to them over the $9.99 all-new, diamond-cut, precision-measured Fusion-Technology of the new Gillette 5-blade system and sent them loose to come up with something that will FINALLY solve this nagging dilemma on behalf over every man who is man-enough to shave with a razor rather than one of those wimpy electric shaver systems that Santa drives around in those annual Norelco commercials we see every Christmas.


The result: The Guillotine (pictured here). The patent-pending, liquid-cooled, scheimpflug-designed, nitrogen gas injected, oxygen-free, 24K gold-contact and plated, spring-loaded 40-blade Guillotine - and it’s without any opposing dielectric forces!



Simply put, the Guillotine: A Great Freak’n Shave.

CEDIA Says: Education at All Levels

I want to address a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and many of those within the CEDIA organization in this - education.

Education comes in many forms throughout life and this holds true in respect to CEDIA Education as well. As many of you know, and more of you will soon learn, CEDIA is the benchmark for education within the residential electronic systems contractors (RESC) channel. CEDIA has made a solid commitment, as part of its ongoing strategic plan, to deliver education to its members at the highest level possible. This has never been more evident with the implementation of CEDIA University “CU on the Road,” CEDIA’s integrated training plan that is being delivered in eight locations throughout North America this year. In addition, CEDIA is providing Installer I and II certification exams at many locations across the country this year. Of course, we cannot discount the comprehensive education that is offered annually at CEDIA EXPO. This will be even more apparent at CEDIA EXPO in Denver, Sept 13th through 17th, in 2006. As time progresses, you will see an increased frequency in educational events with a more in depth and richer offering of curriculum.

Ok, that somewhat covers the CEDIA educational information for our members. Let’s talk about the peripheral educational initiatives that CEDIA is in the process of developing.

CEDIA feels that education shouldn’t stop with its membership. We feel that it is important to address education on a number of different levels. After all, it is our goal to ultimately reach our customer, the consumer. The challenge is... “how do we get there?”

One of the most logical avenues that CEDIA has chosen has been to reach out to the strategic trade community. This would be identified as the builders, the architects and the interior design communities; more specifically through the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).

CEDIA is approaching this from a multiple-tiered perspective. Currently CEDIA is delivering Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to ASID and Learning Units (LUs) to AIA through approved educational courses, both in person and online. Both CEUs and LUs are required by each respective association for their membership to maintain accreditation on an annual basis.

Another element of CEDIA’s outreach effort and our newest initiative is the upcoming CEDIA Electronic Lifestyles Forum that is being held in San Francisco from February 23 through 25th. This inaugural event features a combination of high end industry keynote speakers, panels of industry experts, and breakout sessions bringing together builders, architect and interior designers and, our RESC members for an intense networking opportunity (see http://www.cedia.org/el_forum ). CEDIA will also offer its “train the trainer” course which prepares the CEDIA RESC member to deliver CEU’s in their respective markets. This is a “not to miss” event and we invite our members to attend, there is still space available but it is filling rapidly!

As you can see, CEDIA is constantly reviewing, revising and improving its many vehicles to facilitate delivery of education. Please, take advantage of the opportunities. CEDIA exists for its members, from there its up to you!

I hope to see many of you in San Francisco and again in Denver! Until then, good selling and better learning.



--Andy Willcox

President of CEDIA

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Tracking Trends

One of the things we pride ourselves on here at Kayye Consulting is the ability to track trends. We have a fantastic network of friends in the market who regularly report to us what products they are specifying in systems and selling to clients in system applications. This has allowed us, over the years; to assist our clients in what’s happening as the market evolves. For example, we saw the impact of the iPod on the consumer market as something that would trickle up to the CEDIA (custom-install) market thanks to our relationships with a couple of key HomeAV integration firms. Fortunately, we were in a position to point this out to our HomeAV manufacturer clients, pre-CEDIA, and they all introduced iPod integration tools for the home.

Now, I realize the iPod is not something most of you would see as a high-end home product – much less a ProAV piece of gear. But, the proof’s in the impact, and the iPod has become the “must integrate” category for the high-end home nowadays (believe it or not).

Well, in recent months, we have noticed a trend in the ProAV market that you should all take note of: audio gear is going up. No, I don’t mean in price, I mean in amount of gear specified and, ultimately, sold. And, the numbers aren’t small. In comparing 40 January 2005 systems designed versus January 2004 (same system applications, side-by-side) the amount of audio gear is up 36%. That’s a staggering increase – and all the while video gear is virtually the same (3% increase). Maybe that explains Extron’s move into speakers and more audio gear in the past seven months, huh?

In comparing December 2004 with December 2003 and October 2004 and October 2003, the trend is clear – more audio gear. In fact, in the past five months, the smallest differential is 29%.

So, is it the impact of the iPod, new technology in microphone design, a killer new app? I actually thought it must have been so until someone at a major ProAV dealership in New Jersey told me that it had nothing to do with technology and more to do with money. Apparently, while video gear and projection technology margins have slipped into virtual oblivion, audio margins have remained where they were in 1996. Ten years later, the margin on audio is virtually identical – while in that same period the margin for the average projector has slipped from 32% to, in many cases, less than 10%.

Do you hear what I am saying?

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail
What’s In a Business Plan and Why You Need One
By John Stiernberg

Frequently, pro AV people (systems integrators, technicians, rental and staging contractors, designers, etc.) plunge into the integration business with good technical chops but without a business plan. Too often the results are disappointment and burnout rather than creative, technical, and financial success.

Can business problems be anticipated and prevented? Can pro AV people learn from the business world and apply lessons without “selling out” or "becoming a suit?” The answer to both questions is yes! Whether you are already making all or part of your living from AV, or just thinking about the possibilities, this article provides fundamental concepts and encouragement for constructing or updating your business plan.

Why have a business plan?

You may have heard the expression “Fail to plan, plan to fail”. Most businesses (AV-related or otherwise) do not have written business plans. They may have revenue, checkbooks, and even budgets. If they do not have a complete business plan, they are at risk, and many fail as a result. There are seven positive reasons to construct a written plan:

1. Road Map. The plan shows you the best route to your goals and objectives.

2. Measuring Stick. The plan includes financial and non-financial objectives and measurement criteria so you can track your progress along the way.

3. Opportunity Management Tool. The plan articulates what business you are in and how you conduct business. This allows you to identify viable business opportunities, and avoid or manage those opportunities that do not make sense for you.

4. Lower Stress. When you have a plan, you spend less time and energy worrying about whether you are doing the right thing. Your plan helps keep you grounded and calm.

5. Catalyst for Your Best Work. A business plan is like a system design, stage plot, or project schematic. It assures that everyone is working from the same blueprint and performing business tasks in the right order—without compromising inspiration or creativity.

6. Competitive Weapon. Relatively few businesses have plans. When you do, you have an automatic edge on your competition. This helps boost your confidence as you build your competitive position in the market.

7. Essential for Securing Financing. At some point in your business, you are likely to need cash for operations or business development -- above and beyond your revenue from regular business operations. Your business plan helps you anticipate cash needs. A solid business plan is a requirement of any worthy financial institution -- even your “rich uncle.”

What’s in a business plan?

A business plan is a written system of documents that puts your business and its market environment in context over the course of the next several years. It describes 1) what you are going to do, 2) how you are going to do it, and 3) what the consequences are.

The main text is 15 to 20 pages long. In addition, it includes financial schedules and supplemental material that are included in the reference section or appendix. The reason for the brevity is simple. If it is too long, few people will actually read and use the document. Here is a brief description of the contents of each of five main sections or “chapters.”

Chapter 1: Description of your company, business, and industry. This is where you talk about the pro AV industry and your role in it.

Chapter 2: Description of products, both goods and services. This is where you describe what you do in detail, plus the features, benefits, and advantages of your product vs. the competition. “Products” are what you get paid for. Examples of products include:

• Rental and staging technician: system set up, maintenance, show management, etc.

• System designer/consultant: pre-design consultation, system design, commissioning, etc.

• Systems contractor/integrator: system installation, end-user training, maintenance, etc.

Chapter 3: Market overview and marketing strategy. This is where you describe the size and growth of target segments, the competitive environment, your promotional strategy, product distribution channels, types of projects, your salesforce, and target client base. The marketing section is a “plan within a plan,” and is the most important section of the whole document.

(Editor's note: We'll include an entire article on "The Seven Links in the Marketing Chain" in an upcoming issue of Gary Kayye’s rAVe).

Chapter 4: Management and organizational overview. This section describes your business experience, history, and personnel needs. This is the place to identify key people, their job functions, and credentials -- even if it is a one-person business. Future needs refers to people who will be added to the business as it grows.

Chapter 5: Financial summary. This section includes $ projections for sales revenue, expenses, sources and uses of working capital (cash) over a three year period. These are summarized briefly in the text of the plan, and shown in full detail in the appendix.

Good business plans also include an Executive Summary. This is a one or two page document that includes the essence of the whole business plan. Executive summaries are helpful when seeking financing, especially when many people are reviewing the plan.

What If This All Seems Intimidating?

You may be a great AV technician, consultant, or integrator, but not necessarily a businessperson. You may find that aspects of running your business are tedious or even scary. That’s OK, but it does not take away the need for a business plan. Here are three key points:

1. Double the planning time and cut the implementation time in half. This is a tried-and-true rule of time management. It’s easier and less costly to do the planning on paper than to learn by the dreaded trial and error. This points to the value of constructing your business plan early in the game.

2. The biggest challenge is competing for attention. We are continually bombarded with information today, and “data overload” is unlikely to change. This points to the value of the marketing section of your business plan in the overall scheme of things.

3. Someone has to handle the business. If not you, find someone who will -- or just do AV for fun. This points to the value of identifying your strengths and weaknesses and building your team as your business grows.

The Payoff

Constructing a business plan is essential for long-term success. Are you thinking about going independent? Your business plan will guide you and help you prevent mistakes and disappointment.

Once you are implementing your business plan, you’ll find that you are spending more time providing great AV systems, bringing quality entertainment and communications to new audiences, and making a good living doing something you love. From my standpoint, it’s worth the effort!

About the Author

John Stiernberg is principal consultant with Stiernberg Consulting, the Los Angeles-based business development firm -- http://www.stiernberg.com

John has more than 30 years of music and entertainment technology industry experience, including eight years as musician and agent, 12 years working for sound equipment manufacturers, and 13 years as business analyst and consultant. In addition to pro AV industry affiliations (CEDIA, Infocomm, NAMM, NSCA), he is a member of IBMA, NARAS, the Folk Alliance, and the American Federation of Musicians. Contact John via john@stiernberg.com.

John's book "Succeeding In Music: A Business Handbook for Performers, Songwriters, Agents, Managers, and Promoters" is published by Backbeat Books. For details, visit http://www.succeedinginmusic.net

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

NOT Sent From a Wireless Blackberry

By Gary Kayye, CTS

Last week, the United States Supreme Court rejected an appeal from BlackBerry maker Canada-based Research In Motion (RIM) to review a patent infringement case against them brought by US-based NTP. NTP contends that RIM infringed on its patents in the design and operation of BlackBerry. NTP is now asking for the RIM BlackBerry service to be shut off until they are compensated for the patent infringement – a claim that even after every court in the US has agreed with NTP on, RIM still denies. A shut-off is looming – at least here in the US where the case has been heard.
In an article last Wednesday, Reuter’s Carmel Crimmins declared in the headline that a “BlackBerry blackout threat leaves CEOs aghast”. And, she even quotes Lloyd’s of London insurance chairman, an obvious BlackBerry user; Peter Levene as saying a shutoff is “just nuts. The idea that someone is just going to switch off in three or four weeks, even if it’s only in the United States, it’s crazy.” However, in the article RIM’s VP of corporate marketing, Mark Guibert, claims, “Our software workaround designs remain a solid contingency.”

Yeah, right. If that were totally true, wouldn’t they have already gone to the contingency plan?

And, as far as the CEOs are concerned: Boo-Fricking hoo.

Look, this story’s been all over the trade, technical and mainstream press for years. Virtually everyone’s known, but maybe never believed it, that RIM was being sued by a company for violating patents - this was always a possibility.

Point is, the BlackBerry’s an awesome tool – in fact, it probably created a new industry. And, to be realistic, it’s doubtful that service will actually be cut off – even if NTP receives its injunction hearing scheduled for US courts on February 13th. Heck, the jury trial award to NTP in the original case in 2004 was only $23.1 million. So, don’t fret, you’ll probably still have service. RIM can probably pay that from petty cash with all the BlackBerrys I see when I travel around the country.

But, who knows. It’s happened before. There is a chance that they could, in fact, be shut off. In case they are, and I’m not in my office when it happens, I’ll send you an e-mail from my Trêo.
Oh, I just thought of something, if you have a BlackBerry, how would you get my e-mail?

Long live the Palm!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

CES - Is It Really Worth It?

By Logan Enright
Principal, The Enright Company

Show or CES - you have to wonder whether navigating Las Vegas with 200,000 people in town for the show is worth it. Permit me to vent a little – it took two and a half hours to arrive on the show floor from my hotel parking lot with parking and the badge ordeal. On departure, it took me one hour and forty minutes to drive from the Las Vegas Convention Center to the airport (about 4 miles). Honest. Yes, I will have some cheese with my whine.

This year’s event marked the second year since the demise of COMDEX, the giant computer expo. That means Microsoft, Apple, HP and Intel, to name a few, use CES as a major launching point for new products along side non-computer manufacturers of home electronics.

Speaking of Microsoft -– the next operating system replacing XP, Vista, had its first mass public unveiling. Five years in the making, named Longhorn while in development, Vista boasts many new video and TV-related features. Vista Media Center, which succeeds Media Player 2005, is a great looking software package that will support scrambled digital signals and DIRECTV, thus replaces set top boxes. Many long awaited security features promise to be incorporated in Vista – especially in Internet Explorer 7. Digital Imaging Gallery is a very impressive new digital photo tool for Vista ($129 less $30 rebate) – watch out PhotoShop Elements. Vista is to be shipping by mid-year.

Internet Explorer 7 will have such features as tab browsing, inline search and shrink-to-fit printing. They say you will just open a web browser to check the weather, open an application to view your calendar, and open a calculator program to do arithmetic.

In other Microsoft news, the new Windows Mobile package for the all new Treo 700 was unveiled – Verizon has a lock on it for now and it looks very good.

The CES announcement from Intel was that of the Core Duo Processor. This powerful number-crunching component will sport 1.6-2.1Gig dual 667 Mhz processor with 2Gig cache. The gaming industry is driving this sort of power, and the full motion video market, including editing manufacturers and digital signage providers, will accept these new high-speed processors with open arms.

This year, Panasonic surpassed last year’s 102” plasma from Samsung at the last CES, and upped the ante by one inch. Panasonic showed off a 103” unit, and the image quality of this piece was nothing short of astonishing. No price or delivery date was quoted by a Panasonic spokesperson. Panasonic also introduced a new proprietary, control-over-HDMI connectivity. Called HDMI-AV, this will support digital video, audio and control between source and display within the Panasonic product line.

ViewSonic launched their new Integrated Network Display series 42 and 50” plasmas. These network-based displays have dual RJ45 connection for daisy chaining and onboard USB 2.0 connectivity. Perfect for digital signage, these plasmas allow MPEG 1, 2 or 4 to be streamed via Cat 5/6. Tivella software package is utilized and allows custom configuration. The new XX60 series LCD TVs from ViewSonic offer ATSC-ready, improved refresh rates (6-8ms) and better contrast ratios.

The Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD war raged on at this year’s CES as more industry pundits call for a truce. These two DVD formats are vying to be the home/commercial archival delivery standard for HD. Gary Shapiro, President of CE Vision Magazine in Resolutions for the New Year calls for manufacturers to “swallow pride and do what is right for the customer.” This modern-day VHS vs. Betamax war has major manufacturers lining up on separate sides of the compatibility isle. A Phillips person produced a document showing more Hollywood studios aligned with HD-DVD. A Toshiba spokesperson claims Blu-ray disks have more capacity. However, both are claiming 50G which is plenty for the longest feature film with director’s cut and more.

On the not so controversial side of the biz, Chief Manufacturing rolled out three new electro-mechanical lift/swivel units, called the Cinematic Series. One unit will raise/lower/pan a plasma or LCD on a pedestal. Others extend horizontally from the wall and pan. All include a wireless handheld remote control.

Sampo showed a variety of plasmas and LCD/TVs. ServoTV, a 42" WXGA plasma that incorporates an 802.11a Wi-Fi transmitter that allows a user to broadcast any of the unit's analog signals to a Sampo Client TV, a 10.2" battery-powered LCD, or to any wireless enabled PC or laptop. ServoTV users are then free to enjoy HD or analog media on the main screen, while others watch entirely different analog sources upon the Client TV. This will have distinct applications in the educational and training markets.

eBay, which recently announced the $2B purchase of Skype, the internet phone company, was at CES. With revenue of a scant $7M, Skype allows free internet phone calls. The business plan is to charge non-Skype participants who are on the other line. eBay offered four seminars for retailers to learn how to sell on their site.

And just for fun, Sony rolled out a slick new version of their PSP (Play Station Portable) handheld which handles games, video, MP3, MP4 WAV or ATRAC3plus music files. The landscape-oriented unit with 5” screen uses two types of removable storage: Memory Stick Duo, or full video on UMD cartridge.

Bleary eyed, tired and about done with all these trinkets, I came around a corner late in the day and found Ellen DeGeneres on the floor wrestling with a Sony robotic dog right in front of me. They were shooting a promotional video of her.

So with all the headaches of getting around town during CES, I ask again, “Is it worth it?” Heck yes.

_____________________________________________________________

Logan Enright is a hopeless gadget freak and principal of The Enright Company in Tustin, CA. Mr. Enright is current chair of the Independent Representative Council for InfoComm International. logan@enrightcompany.com

Thursday, December 29, 2005

CEDIA Management Conference 2006

CEDIA Management Conference 2006

Now is Your Time to Profit from Experience

The 2006 CEDIA Management Conference will be held February 20-23 in San Francisco, CA. Management Conference has become one of the premier events for business owners, presidents, and decision makers in the custom residential electronic systems industry. If you haven’t been to Management Conference before, now is the time!

The conference will feature two keynote speakers, including Harvey Mackay who will teach you how to out sell, out manage, out motivate, and out negotiate your competition. Also, you will witness Jeffrey Fox’s no-nonsense, crystal clear message taught around the world, how to become a Rainmaker.

There will also be Cross Industry presentations from top companies in their fields such as Ritz Carlton Hotel Company and Dale Carnegie Institute, as well as Small Group Forums on the following business issues:

• Industry SWOT

• Customer Relations

• Success with Manufacturers

• Marketing/Advertising

• Production Home Market

• Sales Processes

• Project Management

• Service Department

• Skilled Employees

• Crisis Management

To find out more about Management Conference visit www.cedia.org, click on ‘CEDIA University’ and then ‘Management Conference'.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Are Laptops Bad for College Kids; or Professors?

I’ve had the October 14, 2005 issue of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on my desk since the day it came out. I’ve been meaning to write this story for a long time, but just didn’t have the time or opportunity.

But, now it’s time.

In the Marketplace section of the WSJ on that day had an article entitled “The Laptop Backlash,” well-written by Gary McWilliams. As the WSJ is a subscription-only publication, I can’t direct you to their web site to read the original, however it was reprinted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the URL for the article is: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05287/588740.stm. Please do me a favor and hop on over to the URL and read it and then come back to read the rest of my article below.
OK, now, I assume you’ve read it, right?

Well, you know what I think? Boo-fricking-hoo. What a whiner professor Dennis Adams is perceived to be. I’ve been teaching in environments where 100 percent of the students have wireless internet access and laptops sitting right in front of their faces, and I had the entire audience’s attention for more than two hours. Besides, students have been ignoring BORING class lectures for a lot longer than laptops have been around. Before there were laptops, there was the crossword puzzle in the school newspaper. Before the crossword puzzle, there was doodling on notebook margins and before that, there was watching paint peel. If Professor Adams can’t keep his students’ attention for a 50-minute lecture, maybe he ought to take a look in the mirror – rather than to a computer – to lay blame.

Look, there’s no question that we are all fighting for the attention of each and every person we come in contact with every day. Advertising, the Internet, sunshine, snow, catchy songs, iPods, video-iPods, Treos, the phone, the cell phone, Blackberrys – they’re all making attention spans difficult to capture. So what are we to do? Live with it!

Laptops may distract the average college student as he hops from class to class, but the benefits gained from having them far and away exceed the personal and psychological expense. When I attended school at the University of North Carolina (the home of the 2005 national champion Tar Heel basketball team, by the way), we had to hand-write all our papers in little blue books. And we’d get points against us if they couldn’t read our writing. Boo-hoo again, right? Well, heck, we even had to do research in the library – and that sucked when it was a frigid 34 degrees outside. I even had to wear a coat sometimes. But, the bright side was the library was where many of the girls also studied.

The laptop is a tool that has forever revolutionized education. That, coupled with wireless Internet access on most of today’s college campuses, means you’re carrying around an encyclopedia from every country in the world, every song ever produced, every paper ever written, blah, blah, blah – I could go on and on. And, it all fits in a backpack. The laptop is a college student’s gateway to the world they’re about to enter, and it provides them not only a tool packed with information and access, but also a tool to check facts, hear the other side, and an opportunity to form their own opinions. Would professor Adams recommend we go back to the dark ages of education where we have to believe all the rhetoric of each and every professor we had without regard to reality? What’s next, projectors? Should we think twice about putting a projector in a classroom because it might be used by a couple of rogue frat-boys in the middle of the night to show porno-flicks?

Sure, there are and always will be abuses of every system. But, shall we punish the masses for the few? The irony of the fact that the article cites the University of Houston, where professor Adams lectures, the prestigious LIBERAL-arts school known as UCLA, and the University of Virginia as investigating the possibility of blocking wireless-internet access in the classrooms is not lost on me. Should we control what the students see, hear and understand?

Come to think of it, isn’t that what some colleges set out to do?

Ironic, huh?

Friday, September 02, 2005

Hey Hollywood, The Audience is Listening - But Ain't Buying

By Gary Kayye, CTS

According to the August 12, 2005 issue of Entertainment Weekly, 40% of movie-goers say their experience in the theater is not the same quality experience it was 10 years ago. And, if the year 2005 movie box office receipts have any say in that statistic, it would seem you all agree. So far, 2005 box office sales are down eight percent for the year.

Bad Movies?

Bad Theaters?

I think not. I agree the experience isn't as good as it was 10 years ago as the theaters have all equalized - they're all pretty good now. Ten years ago, there were almost no Stadium Seating venues - I would seek one out wherever I was to get that rare experience. Dolby Digital, Sony's SDDS and THX Sound were found at only the "best" exhibition houses - I would seek them out, too. And, the reality-based special effects revolution that started with Jurassic in 1993 was in full swing with 1995 hits like GoldenEye, Jumanji, Die Hard and Crimson Tide.

The Box Office tracking organizations blame it on the quality of the 2005 movie selection. But, let's be serious here. Take a look at the number one movie of each of the last 10 years: Toy Story, Independence Day, Titanic, Armageddon, Star Wars- Episode I, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the first Harry Potter movie, the first Spider-Man movie, the third Lord of the Rings movie and Shrek 2.

You think those movies are better than the 2005 line-up? Hey, I'm a huge Star Wars fan, but Episode I was not in my top-5 of the Star Wars dual-trilogy - much less my top 5 of 1999.

So far, in 2005 the top grossing movies include Star Wars - Episode III, Batman Begins, Madagascar, War of the Worlds, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Point is the quality of movies varies every year. Every year there are good ones and bad ones. But, people go to see them.

So, what's happening in 2005?

Here's my view:

Theater to DVD: In 1995, watching movies at home was something we all did via VHS on our 30" TVs. Now, it's DVD - a system that no one denies is a heck of a lot better than VHS. And, when you put DVDs on screens larger than 30", unlike VHS, the quality gets better - not worse. But, that's just part of the equation. The time from theatrical release to DVD is much shorter than ever. It took Disney nine months to get Toy Story from a theatrical release to Blockbuster. It took Titanic eight months. But, Star Wars - Episode III will be out of DVD in November fewer than six months after its initial release. And, Batman Begins: four months. Mr & Mrs Smith: three months. Wouldn't you wait if your home theater blows away your local movie theater?

Home Theater Everywhere: That brings me to number two, the home theater. Not everyone actually has a home theater, but a heck of a lot of people say they do. Many consider their living room a home theater and measured by 1995 standards, they do, indeed, have home theater. A DTS audio receiver from Yamaha can be had for less than $250 - and for another $100, you get THX thrown in with Dolby Digital, too. The $800 high-quality DVD player of 1998, can be had in 2005 for less than $200. Heck, you can get one at Wal-Mart for $39 - or free, if you'll buy a refrigerator from them, too. So, the quality of what we have in 2005 is amazing. THE THING that movie theaters used to tout as their big advantage over anything else (besides expensive popcorn) was those big audio demos (i.e. re: "The Audience is Listening "). Now, we have that in Home Theater in a Box systems for $499 that include the DVD player, the speakers, the receiver and even the cables to hook it all up.

The Pause Button: Speaking of the DVD player, the pause button sure has become a household word via the DVD player and TiVo-like digital video recorders. Instead of spending $70 on a babysitter, movie tickets and popcorn, we can get the whole shebang for less than $10 at home - and pause it to go to the bathroom or finish watching it after the dishes are done. Top that, Hollywood.

The REAL Home Theater: Finally, the real Home Theater - or Home Cinema. For less than $10,000, you can have a Home Theater system that blows away the movie going experience at ANY movie theater in Durham, Chapel Hill or Raleigh, NC. OK, I realize that some of the big cities have the best there is, but I'll tell you what: give me an InFocus ScreenPlay 7205, a Da-Lite screen and a thousand dollars to spend on a DVD player, receiver and speakers and I'll give you a home theater that blows away most movie theater experiences. I think this is the key. I think if you took a look at that eight-percent decline in the 2005 Box Office receipts, it would be darn close to equal to the growth in 2005 of the true Home Theater market. I am willing to wait three, four or even five months for the top movies of the year when I know they will sound better (or as good as), look better (or perceptually as good as) and be more comfortable than my local Cineplex (where there was a shooting, by the way, a few weeks ago).

Oh, here's another point to ponder. The fact that the time from theatrical release to DVD release is shortening is no accident. It's planned. In fact, what you will see in 2006 and 2007 is that trend continuing and maybe even being within weeks of each other. In 2005, the money made on DVD will far in away surpass the money made in the theater for most movies; and Hollywood is noticing). What will happen first is downloadable movies (in NTSC format) will become more and more prevalent with Hollywood even pushing the services through DirecTV, Blockbuster, Netflix and TiVo. Then HD-DVD stuff will still be the standard five-to-nine-month delay that we see from movies now, but the regular quality movies will be virtually real-time. And, you'll pay for it - and we WILL pay for it. I can see the day where you will have a choice to rent a movie for download the same week it comes out in the theater for, say, $20. And, we'll pay that, too. If you'll wait three weeks, it will go down to $10, six weeks $5 and so on. I'll explain that one in the next issue - but count on it!

So, think about it: expect the growth of the Real Home Theater market to be exponential and explosive by the end of this decade. The Digital Cinema might just happen at home way before it does at the local mall.