Logitech (s logi) unveiled its new Harmony Link hardware/software combo for iPad(s aapl), iPhone and Android (s goog) devices Tuesday. The Link lets you use your device as a universal remote for your home entertainment system. While Logitech isn’t the first to try this, it is the company with the best pedigree to attempt such a system.
Logitech’s Harmony line of universal remotes has been one of the top brands out there for many years for progammable multi-function home theater system control. They allow you to quickly and easily set up not only multiple devices on one remote, but also program various activities that combine a number of commands from the different components in your home entertainment setup.
Harmony Link brings the same features to your iPhone, iPad or Android device (allowing them to control up to 8 devices and various, user-customizable activities combining those devices), but it also ups the game with interactive content discovery features. The Harmony Link software lets you browse TV listings for your area and provider, and then watch shows using its interactive TV guide. It actually looks pretty magical as demoed in the video below.
I’m even tempted to sign up for cable again just to check that out, but note that you’ll need an iPad to take advantage of the interactive TV guide at launch. Android devices and the iPhone only feature device and activity controls.
The Link system works by connecting with your device via a Wi-Fi receiver, and then translating commands to IR for your home theater equipment to understand. That means if you’ve devised a clever way to keep your cable box, receiver, etc. out of sight, you’ll actually be able to control them with the Harmony Link without having to go on safari just to change channels.
Link on the iPad also includes features for adding shows and channels to favorites, which is nice in and of itself, but also seems like a logical first step towards social sharing features. Just allowing others to see via Facebook or Twitter what you’re watching would add a social layer to Harmony Link that could make it a great way for content providers to encourage second-screen engagement, since people will already be using the remote app to enhance their TV viewing anyway. Hopefully Logitech sees the inherent opportunity there, too, and adds social elements in a future iteration.
Bravo to Logitech for making this available at $99 when it launches next month. The iPhone and iPad have long had the potential to become a disruptive force for the universal remote market, especially since they seem to be becoming more popular as supplementary viewing devices for people consuming TV-based content. A relatively cheap Link (when compared to Logitech’s existing Harmony line) lets Logitech get out in front of the potential for mobile devices to eat into its market share. And thanks to the interactive guide, Link does so in a way that adds value, rather than simply replicating existing Harmony functions in a boring way that leaves room for others to improve.