Installations: The Home of Tomorrow is Here! Page 2

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EI was founded in 2004, but it has already gotten Microsoft and HP on board and brought out an impressive line of products, including a series of big, beautiful Lifepoint touchpanels (8.9-inch version, $6,000; 12.1-inch, $7,000). It's also lined up 135 compatible products from other manufacturers, including A/V gear from Russound, B&K, Denon, Sony, Marantz, Samsung, Niles, Integra, NuVo, NetStreams, CyberHome, and Vaux Lattis. And - in an unusual move that shows he's willing to put his gear where his hearth is - EI founder Seale Moorer has turned his 12,000-square-foot home into a showcase to display these assorted wares.

Handling 36 audio zones, 19 HVAC zones, 120 security zones, and 295 lighting zones would be an awfully tall order for any control system, but it's one the Media Center-based Lifeware system seems to handle without complaint in Moorer's Williamsburg-inspired new-construction home. In fact, the only hiccup I experience during a whole day spent prowling the place is when the HP Digital Entertainment Center in the great room refuses to read a flash-memory card. (The solution is simple: Sneaker-net the card to the HP DEC in the master bedroom, which reads it just fine and makes its images available to all of the installation's 30 video screens.)

The Lifeware system is so successfully implemented in Moorer's home that there's little point in talking about the configuration of the individual rooms. What matters most is that everything's available everywhere, to everyone, at any time, at the same time. Say you're in the kitchen making a late-night cup of hot chocolate while answering some e-mail on the HP Media Center laptop on the counter, and you decide to check out the TV listings. Scanning them in a separate window on the laptop screen, you see that Repo Man is starting in 10 minutes on Flix. Still at the laptop keyboard, you turn on the bedroom TV and audio system, dim the lights there, change the channel to Flix, and, to get yourself in the mood, dip into the music collection to play some Circle Jerks over the Klipsch ceiling speakers in the kitchen. About the only thing Lifeware doesn't do is plunk the mini marshmallows into the cocoa for you.

Of course, you didn't have to use the laptop to do this. You could have tapped the wall-mounted Lifepoint controller with its high-def, widescreen touchpanel, or the touchscreen on the palm-size, wireless Samsung Q1 PC resting on the other counter. Or you could have walked over to the adjoining great room and used a traditional hard-button remote to make all the adjustments via the 58-inch screen on the HP rear-projection DLP HDTV there.

The system's basic functions are familiar - feed a DVD or CD into any one of the home's 12 HP Media Center PCs or the 2-terabyte Lifestorage server ($8,000), and it's immediately added to the collection. Meanwhile, the system goes online to retrieve the cover art and other pertinent info. It's the degree of integration that's unprecedented. Jack a camcorder into the network, and your home video immediately becomes accessible - even on a laptop halfway around the world. Ditto for snapshots on a memory card.