Blog Post

The End of the Remote Control

As we make the television way more complicated, how will Fido’s favorite chew toy — aka the remote control — evolve? The remote is ripe for innovation, but the trick will be figuring out which revisions will have appeal for such a mass-market device.

Our in-house analyst Mike Wolf sums up the competing possibilities in the category:

  • Network-enabled remotes – improving on crappy infrared signals
  • QWERTY/touchscreen remotes – much better input options (but at a price). Both Skype and IBM are trying to patent this stuff.
  • Gesture control – Wii for your TV, as done by GestureTek, Canesta, Softkinetic and others (see Chris’ summary of the players)
  • Apps on other hand-held devices – software that enables your phones and iPods to control your television

We’re probably the most excited about this last option. We spoke with Verizon CIO Shaygan Kheradpir on Friday, and he attested that by the fourth quarter this year FiOS users will be able to tell their TV what to do using their phone. Since conglomerates like Verizon already run so many communication channels in and out of our lives, we only hope they can start integrating their own parts. It’s only rational that phones — which use to we text and talk with our friends on all day — should be a crucial part of making TV social. The next thing for the remote control could actually be the end of the remote control.

12 Responses to “The End of the Remote Control”

  1. I was and I’m also excited about the last option. So excited that i wrote my bachelor thesis as interaction designer at University of arts Zürich about this ubiquitous idea. There are various reasons to use mobile touschscreens as remote control.

    • watch and manage tv content on the way (pure cash for tv/internet-provider)
    • remote control as personal device for optimal recommendation etc.
    • flexibel surface, for example virtual keyboard etc.
    • near undless expandable options, manage every kind of personal media up to domestic appliance
    • with increasing mobile cpu speed no more Set Top Boxes. Wouldn’t be nice, if providers give us a network harddisk instead of a STB.

    But there are also negative things. Without hardware buttons you have to watch every time on the phone to do something. My working prototype fixed this problem!

    If there are interested companies reading this post, please check my portfolio ( and contact me. For a job or intership as interaction/experience/interface designer I will travel also arround the world!

    • bill correll

      It’s not just about using the iPhone (or MIDs or netbooks for that matter) to control your television. It’s using the portable device as an interface to all of your media, whether it’s on your home network or made available as a web service (your service providers VOD library for instance). The portable acts like a picture-in-picture device for previewing content or interacting with it without disturbing other viewers. You can also use the portable to route the content to any connected video or audio player.

      This requires a “client-server” software architecture that separates the control layer from the media transport. The server resides on a users home NAS, PC, or gateway. Check out Eyecon Technologies. They’ll be demonstrating this at IBC next week.

  2. Hi,

    NDS, and Kudelski for that matter, have allowed mobile pvr/stb programming for something like 4 years+ now (starting with sms).

    And some of the mobile networks, similarly for years, have allowed content to be cross-accessed on pc and mobile (and iptv), no matter where the initial transaction was triggered.

    The problem is the conflict in ergonomics of a talking device with a display device and a control device!

    Aren’t the biggest losers going to be the universal remote manufacturers?

    Also, the above is why the IBM twitter-remote is pointless p.r., as essentially a device like the Nokia N96 (even n95), let alone the iPhone 3gs, are already there with TV-control apps and twitter access.

    My prediction, for the masses (non nerds) it’ll be remotes which have lcd screens and commodity wireless connections – i.e. not the expensive licensing of gsm internals, but able to connect/access our home media networks from multiple vendors (which, incidentally, could also bring in Nintendo with the DS as a communicative touch remote!).

    Kind regards,

    Shakir Razak

    • @Shakir – good points on mobile, etc.

      One thing I would make clear – the mobile phone as a pointer/in-house remote is going to be very big, as will out-of-home programming of a DVR using a mobile phone – BUT I do think they are somewhat different activities. One is essentially a service feature of a payTV DVR service, the other is the phone replacing a hardware category in the standard remote. Both will be important and likely you will see singular programs/web apps allowing for both – but the two should be thought of as separate (but related) trends.

  3. I think a great selling point for cellphones would be the ability to do DVR of their shows via their phones. And if cellphones can merge with one’s home computer (and it merge with one’s TV), there is the same possibility for web-series, downloading off of p2p networks, etc.