Hewlett-Packard discontinues piece of home automation puzzle

Thursday, April 26, 2007

PALO ALTO, Calif.--Hewlett-Packard announced in late March that it is discontinuing the manufacture of its Digital Entertainment Center, which is part of the home automation package DSC unveiled at ISC West along with Exceptional Innovation, a manufacturer of the Life|ware home automation software (see "DSC unveils home automation partnership" at www.securitysystemsnews.com). The company intends to focus its home automation efforts on standard PCs that run the Microsoft Vista Media Center software and products like the MediaSmart TV, essentially an IP-addressable television which is not Microsoft dependent, along with products that are not currently on the market.
As one of the biggest manufacturers supporting the home automation space, this move by Hewlett Packard has been extensively covered by trade publications in the consumer electronics and IT spaces. Julie Jacobson, writing for CEPro, went so far as to write: "The company that pioneered the living-room form factor for Media Center Edition PCs has decided to drop the line."
This will not immediately affect DSC's package, however. Bret Fitzgerald, director of operations for Life|ware at Exceptional Innovation, said HP "still has several thousand decks on hand that they'll be selling through the package." HP has also stated it will continue to support the line.
Does this throw a monkeywrench into the growth of home automation? "It does and it doesn't," said Fitzgerald, whose software is also compatible with products released by Honeywell and GE Security. "You never want to see a big partner back out. But there's already been headway made and we expect other partners to make more media centers or begin making media centers." He cited Sony as the biggest remaining player in the livingroom space, along with smaller companies like Alienware (owned by Dell), Niveous, Inteset, Integra and Shuttle.
Fitzgerald thinks it's important that computers that run home audio/visual systems not look like traditional PCs. "The A/V-style units are more bearable than the computer," he said. "The nice thing about the HP deck was that it was a good size. You'll see them getting smaller and smaller."

For more on the push toward home automation in the security space, see the May issue of Security Systems News.