I just tossed my last Harmony remote in the trash last night, after scavenging it of working parts so I can make repairs on my bestie’s ailing Harmony before it dies completely to death, too. Then I wake up this morning to find that Logitech, who bought the Harmony brand in 2004, is tossing its remotes, as well.
Not in the trash, mind you — and I doubt there’ll be any scavenging done — but according to the story at CNET, Logitech is looking to divest itself of the Harmony brand after an operating loss of $180 million in Q3 of fiscal 2013. That loss wasn’t all Harmony’s fault, it seems. Or maybe not at all Harmony’s fault. According to the story, “continued weakness in the global PC market was the primary factor in [Logitech's] disappointing Q3 results, and “the company has identified product categories that don’t fit in with the Logitech’s new strategy,” which involves a shift of focus toward “mobile computing, specifically tablets and smartphones.”
So what now for the brand?
Really, that depends upon who buys it. The likeliest scenario is that some other manufacturer with no existing remote control line will snatch it up and continue operations as usual.
That, to my mind, would be a huge missed opportunity. What I would really like to see is one of the actual control companies — Control4 or URC — pick up the brand and do something really exciting with it. And the spark of my idea actually comes from Control4′s recent partnership with Sony. It’s the Trojan Horse approach: embed some seriously sophisticated control potential in a mainstream consumer device, sprinkle in some education for the customer, and allow them the choice of either operating the device as usual, or working with a custom installer to take the control experience to the next level.
Imagine someone like Control4 snatching up the Harmony brand, stamping their pretty red “4″ on it, and continuing to sell the devices on retail store shelves, with the exact same DIY programming capabilities, the same activities-based navigation, the same low price, and perhaps something just a bit better in the build-quality department. But within those devices could be embedded the potential of communicating with Control4′s Home Controllers, like the HC-250 – the ability, that is, to unlock some truly powerful, scalable, and omnipresent home automation, far beyond what any consumer DIY device can provide.
Would most people opt for the upgrade? Almost certainly not. Most would probably putter along with their admittedly nifty DIY remote control experience. Put the potential for introducing a completely new demographic of consumers to the joys of actual custom home automation is pretty significant.
Maybe that’s just one control-obsessed tech geek dreaming, though.