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Why smartphones may replace your remote
Austin, Texas (CNN) -- Well, TV remote control, it was
a very impressive 60-year run. But it may soon be time
to say goodbye.
more lost weekends between the couch cushions. No more
swapping the order of your AA batteries to get a few
more seconds of juice in order to click away from a
least, that seems to be the writing on the wall-sized
living room electronics convergence that was promised
back in the late '90s has finally started to materialize.
video game consoles download movies. Our set-top cable
boxes can display our friends' Twitter feeds. DVD players
and HDTVs themselves can stream Netflix movies and feed
our home theaters' YouTube videos.
the humble remote control hasn't really kept up.
remotes have barely evolved in the last 20 years. Clunky,
two-handed, touch-screen remotes were in vogue for a
while (at least among those who could afford pricey
custom installations). And Logitech made a tidy business
with its superior Harmony remotes, which downloaded
devices' codes from the Internet and could control practically
any machine in your living room.
our HDTVs, media players and set-top boxes aren't very
easy to control with a shoe box's worth of assorted
remote controls or even the mightiest Harmony device.
PlayStation 3, for instance, uses Bluetooth, making
a standard remote useless to control it without an expensive
add-on to convert an infrared signal. In May, Google
announced a TV partnership with Intel, Sony and Best
Buy, among others, to bring more Internet content to
TV and more TV content to the Internet.
just one more indication that as our home theater devices
are increasingly Internet connected, we'll be more dependent
on them for basic Web applications and to search for
probably won't access all that with a keyboard and mouse
or a laptop. You'll be controlling it all with devices
you're probably already familiar with -- touch-screen
Internet devices like the iPod Touch, Android phones,
the iPad and any number of other phone or tablet we've
yet to see.
getting used to typing on such devices. They allow for
easy surfing and, most importantly, they lend themselves
well to being living-room TV companions.
and hardware add-ons are being made available for devices
like the iPhone and Android phones.
of them, the RedEye Mini ($49), plugs into a phone's
headphone jack and blasts infrared signals at your home
theater, allowing you to set up commands for watching
TV, listening to music or setting your DVR to record
and satellite companies have jumped into the app fray,
providing ways for you to set recordings remotely (say
if you forgot to record "30 Rock" and won't
make it home in time to schedule it), browse TV listings
and, in some cases, watch your TV shows live or streamed
from your DVR.
just showed off a demo of an iPad app that will also
work directly as a remote to control a cable box.
Pioneer and Sony have also introduced apps this year
that allow you to control devices like HDTVs and Blu-ray
players as long as they're on the same wireless network
as your phone.
why would you give up the friendly, peanut-shaped TiVo
remote for a bunch of smartphone apps?
one thing, your phone is usually not far away (you could
have someone call if you lose it) and is far more powerful
than a remote control. Other family members could control
the family TV with their own phone or tablet if, say,
you leave the room on a phone call. And in the case
of tablets like the iPad, you might get extra info on
your screen alongside the virtual buttons of an on-screen
might get served bonus video clips, IMDB.com background
info, access to chat rooms and Facebook updates right
alongside your remote app. And it follows that broadcasters
will want to display ads as you browse and channel-flip,
trade-offs -- besides those ads? Currently, devices
like the RedEye are not as easy to set up with device
codes and handy commands as they should be.
usual problems with smartphones (too-short battery life,
typing that's not always easy for everyone) will make
them seem like poor substitutes at first. But they'll
help usher in an era of ever-cheaper, off-the-shelf
tablet or phone won't just turn on your TV. It will
also show you your energy consumption, turn off the
lights upstairs and allow you to adjust the A/C from
much the same way that GPS devices are quickly being
ushered out by less-robust but just-good-enough smartphone
map applications, the remote control will have a tough
time weathering the convergence of apps, mobile devices
and Web-enabled TV that's hitting our living rooms.