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The CEO behind the Nook is taking on smart homes

The CEO behind the Nook is taking on smart homes


Savant hopes the new CEO can help bring its expensive systems out of mansions and into homes

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Savant, one of the major players in high-end home automation systems, is working to bring its products to those with more reasonable budgets. In order to help reach that mass audience, the company has hired former Barnes & Noble chief executive William Lynch as its new CEO. Lynch led the bookseller's transition to digital under the Nook brand until his resignation last July. Founder of Savant, Robert Madonna, tells The Verge in an interview that Lynch's experience with Nook was partly behind the decision to bring him on board.

Currently, Savant's impressive smart home products are sold through dealers for $5,000 to over $10,000, and they must be custom-installed. The systems use a base station computer and allow you to use a smartphone or tablet to control everything from your blinds, lights, and thermostat to what's playing on your TV and stereo.

Madonna, who's been the CEO since the company's inception, explained that while his focus has been on the luxury market, he "always expected the mid-level market to take off and now ... it’s time to bring in additional talent that can take the company to the next step." He added that "William [Lynch] will be helping definitely with his leadership, steering the ship through taking it into the mid-level market and beyond."

"We’ll be investigating the do-it-yourself market."

Lynch tells The Verge that he has experience in "taking sophisticated technology products and consumerizing them," referring to both engineering and design as well efforts to "market them to consumers in a way they can grasp easily." He'll likely need to work hard to make Savant's future products understandable to regular consumers. The first such product is set to be released this spring, and it reaches down to just about $1,000, thanks in part to relying on a Linux-powered base station instead of the Mac Mini used in its higher-end systems. The new system, which doesn't yet have a name, will still require professional installation.

As for the future, neither the founder nor Lynch would make any specific comments, but Madonna did say that "we’ll be investigating the do-it-yourself market." Considering the success of products like the Nest Learning Thermostat, it seems likely that Savant will eventually find a way to get its impressive technology into the hands of the masses.