On Remote Controls

Posted in Apple, Media at 7 pm

Daring Fireball linked to The Russians Used a Pencil‘s post speculating on the evolution of remotes. I wanted to note two items:

1) Battery life: I love the scroll wheel idea to replace the directional arrow buttons, but touch-based sensors have a serious disadvantage in the fact that they must have power running through them in order to detect the action of the user. That current is a constant drain and constant power drains are deadly for batteries. At best you could have a physical motion sensor (rolling beads?) that could wake up the remote when it’s moved, but touch sensors suck up the juice. No little lithium ion coin-sized battery would suffice.

The alternative is the original iPod’s physical scroll wheel which I adored in the very first iPods. That would be cool, but also an expensive proposition in manufacturing a remote control.

2) Bluetooth connectivity: Unless Apple comes out with a smart, free standard that can be used industry-wide to support multi-device control, Bluetooth in remotes is a myopic view of the real world. Sony has already caused a lot of headaches with having a Bluetooth remote for the PS3. There’s a lot to learn from that.

The reason for having an IR-based remote is all about having multiple devices be able to be controlled as a single entity. The simplest example is controlling the power and volume on the television that the AppleTV is connected to. If the Apple remote doesn’t support IR, you’re stuck with two remotes. Got an amplifier in the mix for surround sound? A DVD or Blu-Ray player? Now you’re talking input switching as well.

Apple’s going to have to come out with something truly interesting and unique and forward leading to stand out. I think they can do it, but I’m certain that these two technologies will not be in the mix unless radically re-thought.

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URL

Leave a Comment