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Smart Home

Former Amazon Alexa exec Charlie Kindel takes a new job with Control4

As a new senior VP, Kindel moves from overseeing Alexa's DIY smart home ecosystem to growing Control4's luxury smart-home-as-a-service model.

Four months after leaving his position as Amazon's director of Alexa Smart Home, Charlie Kindel is back to work -- this time with the smart-home-as-a-service provider Control4, which offers dealer-installed, luxury smart home setups that incorporate high-end audio/visual gear with countless brands and products from the connected home (including Alexa, and the Amazon Echo line of smart speakers).

Former Amazon Alexa smart home exec and new Control4 senior VP Charlie Kindel, seen here pitching a crowd of home automation dealers at the 2016 CEDIA tech expo.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The news came during the company's earnings call this afternoon. Kindel, who has a reputation as an ecosystem builder after 21 years at Microsoft and five at Amazon, steps in as senior vice president of product and services following the retirement of Eric Anderson, who had held the role since 2012.

"I knew that I wanted to get back into the game," Kindel tells CNET, adding that his experience working with Control4 from the Alexa end of things helped convince him that he was making the right move. "The Control4 skill for Alexa is a phenomenal experience. I was really impressed with that, and with the company."

Kindel also points to his experience bringing Control4 into his own home, something he hinted at in April in a personal blog post announcing his departure from Amazon. "The pace of the past five years has finally gotten to me and I simply need to catch my breath," he wrote at the time. "I have a car restoration project that is two years behind schedule. My home automation system needs a complete revamp (it's gotten a bit crusty since it was installed in 2001)."

Kindel later told me he was considering Control4 for said revamp, which might have been a bit telling in hindsight.

Kindel tells me that he's already up and running at Control4, but still learning the ins and outs of the business model. I suspect it won't take very long. At Amazon, Kindel had a hand in expanding Alexa's DIY smart home ecosystem, but he also became a bit of a brand ambassador to more high-end, dealer-installed home automation providers. For instance, Kindel delivered a keynote address at the 2016 CEDIA expo, where he pitched Alexa's appeal as an ideal voice controller to an audience of luxury home tech dealers -- including Control4.

"We want to partner with all of you," Kindel told the crowd.

Now, while Kindel still speaks proudly of where Alexa is at, he finds himself pivoting to the merits of bringing the professionals in to manage a more advanced smart-home setup. In a personal blog post announcing the move, Kindel writes the following:

During my time at Amazon, I witnessed the explosive growth in the Smart Home - voice, the most natural interface for the home, has driven consumer demand and acceptance. The problem is, getting all those individual products to work together - throughout the entire home is work typical home owners just don't want to do. There's too much fragility and complexity for normal folks to deal with.

And, "as you add more and more devices, things get more complex," he tells CNET. "Even to a nerd like me."

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In moving to Control4, Kindel joins a company that sees lots of room for growth. 

"It's right in front of us," Control4 CEO Martin Plaehn tells CNET, describing the pool of potential customers the company seeks to win over. "Just in the US, we estimate 17 million households that fit squarely in our demographic." 

Plaehn adds that Control4 currently boasts a user base of 370,000 homes, 60,000 of which signed up within the past year, and that the company has more cash on hand today than it did when it first went public five years ago this week.

As for Kindel's role in that growth strategy, Plaehn gives the impression that it'll be multifaceted.

"His broad experience across the domains of consumer media, home networking and computing, mobile and voice, as well as the creation of their underlying scalable platforms and ecosystems, are all directly applicable disciplines for creating and delivering next-generation connected home experiences," Plaehn said.

Update, 5:15 p.m. ET: Added comment from Kindel's personal blog post announcing the move.