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Apple, Google, and Amazon's Quest For One Remote Control Is Futile 130

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-houseguests-will-never-be-able-to-operate-your-tv dept.
smaxp writes: "If the cable and satellite live television providers were to comment on the latest Amazon Fire TV or reports of the new Google Android and Apple TVs, it would likely be in the voice and character of Charlton Heston: 'We will give up our remotes when they are pried from our cold dead hands.' Amazon's Fire TV and the rumored Google Android and Apple TVs excite and then disappoint. At first glance, it looks like cable and satellite television are about to be outflanked and the eternal struggle with the TV remote and set-top box will be solved with an intuitive interface to search both live television and archival content from streamed online video companies such as Netflix. Sadly, it isn't so. The cable and satellite companies that provide live television have made sure this won’t happen, because putting Amazon in the forefront would make live television providers’ brands less relevant. Amazon would then also have a wedge to pry its way into the live television ecosystem."
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Apple, Google, and Amazon's Quest For One Remote Control Is Futile

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  • by vjoel (945280)

    We will give up our remotes when they are pried from our cold dead hands.

    Somehow, I just cannot hear Mr. Heston using the passive voice to say that.

    • That would entirely depend what the writer wrote for him. Heston himself probably wouldn't know what your complaint is.

    • Re:Grammar (Score:4, Interesting)

      by lgw (121541) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @01:48PM (#46696863) Journal

      I have one remote for everything: my wireless mouse. My TV is just the display for my "media PC" (actually a laptop). Everything I watch is easily controlled that way. I can browse my media library through an actual file manager, not some "tiles" BS nonsense. If I need to actually search on Netflix I'll have to grab my keyboard, but that's rare. My favorite radio stations are all online now. What more could I want?

      Now, this wouldn't work if I were foolish enough to send some damn cable company $100/month for "nothing on", but fuck cable companies.

      The best part is, when I occasionally travel, I just take that laptop with me, plus an HDMI cable to connect to the TV in the hotel room if needed. Quite handy.

      • To be honest, in the era of Bluetooth- and WiFi-enabled cell phones, what exactly do we need remotes for?
        • Re:Grammar (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ThomasBHardy (827616) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @02:31PM (#46697487)

          While you can get the same functionality on a phone, you cannot easily replicate the ease of use or the in-the-dark familiarity of a dedicated remote on a cell phone screen. I've run cell remotes and they are clever and better than nothing, but not better.

          Having to activate your cell phone, get blaring light in your eyes rather than the dim theater room, and then having to load the appropriate app, and then start pushing virtual buttons, all to lower the volume on a movie is not very efficient or unobtrusive.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by jedidiah (1196)

            > you cannot easily replicate the ease of use or the in-the-dark familiarity of a dedicated remote on a cell phone screen.

            You simply don't need to. The cell phone screen has it's own lighting. So the "problem" you are describing there becomes completely moot.

            Although this really sidesteps the real issue: multi-vendor co-operation. The cable providers really have squat to do with this problem. Hardware vendors don't want to play nice with each other.

            • by tepples (727027)

              Having to activate your cell phone, get blaring light in your eyes rather than the dim theater room

              The cell phone screen has it's own lighting

              For one thing, this lighting is too bright. For another, the phone can't detect that you want to use it as a television control until you press the home button and navigate to the television control app. For a third, someone else in your household can't use it while you are using the phone.

              So the "problem" you are describing there becomes completely moot.

              And the fourth problem, which touch-screen television controls share with touch-screen video gaming, is unusability while looking away. Despite the name [pineight.com], touch screens provide no touch cues to the user, unlike a physical

              • by Triv (181010)

                Brightness can be modified by building your app with dark colors. It still "glows" but at least it doesn't glow white. See mobilemouse for a great example.

                You have a dedicated TV remote now; replacing it with a phone is silly. Buy a cheap tablet or iPod Touch and use it for just this purpose, or at least related purposes. iPods also remember your last open app if you close it down with the power button instead of the home button, saving you the trouble of renavigation.

                This hits all your points I think?

                • by tepples (727027)

                  Buy a cheap tablet or iPod Touch and use it for just this purpose

                  If I understand correctly, I'd need to use iTunes software to manage an iPod. According to AppDB, Wine gained support for at least some of iTunes sometime in the past four months (between 1.7.5 and 1.7.15), but I'm not so sure this support includes connecting to an iPod over USB. The compatibility report [winehq.org] states that connecting an iPod was not tested.

                  or at least related purposes.

                  Looking down to switch among these "related purposes" takes my eyes off the TV screen.

        • by lgw (121541)

          There are two things I want to do in a hurry: pause, and change the volume. With my chosen player (MPC), pasue is click-anywhere, and volume is scroll-wheel-anywhere. Meanwhile, my cell phone is over in it's charger when I'm home.

        • by Belial6 (794905)
          So that you have a device that runs for years on a pair of AA batteries instead of needing to keep your remote plugged in.
      • by jambox (1015589)
        I've got a Samsung smart tv and keep all my media on a server. Ok, some typing is done when ripping/copying, but I only have a remote, and it is a proper remote. You can stream media wherever you want - tablets, phones, either of our laptops, the PC, the TV.
        • by lgw (121541)

          Tried that, was simply easier to run an HDMI cable to a laptop. The Samsung remote is a pain (though I think they're on to something with their touchpad, I still found it awkward). The mouse just works.

          • by jambox (1015589)
            I think you're right except for that damn cable! Wireless has to be the way forward, especially within family households with multiple playback devices. Maybe Samsung etc should work on beefing up their remotes.
      • by Belial6 (794905)
        What software are you using to turn your TV on and off, and what software are you using to control the volume?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @01:35PM (#46696697)

    From the headline, this looked like customers were rejecting some new, ugly, TV remote app that Apple, Google, and Amazon each had released a variant of.

    From the summary, this looks like cable & satellite TV providers have the gall to want their name on the program search menu, which deeply offends Apple, Google, and Amazon.

    At this rate, I suspect the actual linked article is a rather bland study of the inter-penguin behaviors of a group of rockhopper penguins during a 4 month observation that was initially proposed because the researcher thought the penguin-keeper at the zoo was hot.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Honestly, that article sounds more interesting than the title or the summary.

    • Agreed, it's a terribly misleading title. It has absolutely nothing to do with remotes (of which I have one that controls 9 devices in 3 rooms).

    • At this rate, I suspect the actual linked article is a rather bland study of the inter-penguin behaviors of a group of rockhopper penguins during a 4 month observation that was initially proposed because the researcher thought the penguin-keeper at the zoo was hot.

      Close. It's just some idiot's brain-dead blog post that he submitted to Slashdot in a desperate attempt to get some readers. It's slightly longer than the summary, but doesn't actually contain any more content. The basic premise of the argument is that live TV and satellite TV matter and they'll continue to call the shots. The reality of the situation is that digital, on-demand services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu are rapidly expanding in terms of the content available, and in terms of not just dis

      • by NotDrWho (3543773)

        The reality of the situation is that digital, on-demand services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu are rapidly expanding in terms of the content available, and in terms of not just distributing but creating new content (House of Cards, Arrested Development).

        I agree with your larger point. But I would exclude Hulu from this. I'm not paying them $8/month to watch a shitload of commercials. They need to decide if they're going to be ad-supported or subscription, because you can't be both. Their shows were so loaded with annoying ads that I didn't even make it through my free trial before I cancelled. I can't believe anyone actually pays them for the privilege of watching about 100 un-skippible ads in every show. They also need to start demanding some back-catalog

      • The basic premise of the argument is that live TV and satellite TV matter and they'll continue to call the shots.

        And as long as the major professional and collegiate sport leagues have agreements with national and regional networks with blackout clauses, live TV will continue to call the shots.

        The reality of the situation is that digital

        Cable and satellite television are digital now.

        on-demand services

        Cable television offers on demand programming in addition to live programming.

    • Well, how hot was she?
  • I know this isn't what you meant by "not wanting to give up our remotes," but am I the only one annoyed by Amazon for going with a bluetooth remote? I've already got a PS4 that won't work with my damned Harmony universal remote. I'll be damned if I'm adding another device that won't!

    • by NotDrWho (3543773)

      Oh, I forgot to end with "You damned dirty apes!"

      • by gmhowell (26755)

        Oh, I forgot to end with "You damned dirty apes!"

        Double sad, given the Heston reference in the summary.

    • by DdJ (10790)

      I know this isn't what you meant by "not wanting to give up our remotes," but am I the only one annoyed by Amazon for going with a bluetooth remote?

      I don't know enough to answer that yet.

      I would not really prefer IR.

      If the bluetooth in use is extremely standard, so that other devices and even software can be used to "emulate" it, then I'm delighted, as I'll (eventually) be able to integrate the box with other stuff.

      If it's doing something grossly nonstandard, that just happens to be implemented on top of bl

      • by adolf (21054)

        If the bluetooth in use is extremely standard, so that other devices and even software can be used to "emulate" it, then I'm delighted, as I'll (eventually) be able to integrate the box with other stuff.

        Is there any such thing as a "standard" Bluetooth remote?

        If there is: Which store should I go to if I want to buy one?

        That said...if you want custom integration, Bluetooth is overkill. These things are implicitly already on the network. Just use IP.

        • Is there any such thing as a "standard" Bluetooth remote?

          Yes. It's called an alphabetic keyboard. A lot of people use them to input text into tablet computers, and they make them for PCs too.

        • by DdJ (10790)

          Is there any such thing as a "standard" Bluetooth remote?

          Well, the device presents itself as bluetooth using the HID profile. That's a start.

          Given that, I'd consider any remote that presents itself as a keyboard with well-defined keys to be extremely standard. (Remember, media control keys like "play/pause" and "fast forward" are well-defined and widely supported on keyboards already.)

          Further, I'd consider any remote that presents itself as a gamepad with well-defined buttons to be extremely standard.

          A r

          • by adolf (21054)

            Well, the device presents itself as bluetooth using the HID profile. That's a start.

            Perhaps. But being HID doesn't mean anything except that the name of that layer in the stack that it talks through.

            IIRC, even the ODB-II Bluetooth dongle that I use to diagnose cars is an HID device. As are PS3 controllers. Ain't much standard about them, though -- at least not as-specified by the "HID" TLA.

            Given that, I'd consider any remote that presents itself as a keyboard with well-defined keys to be extremely standa

            • by DdJ (10790)

              Archaic. None of the "remotes" that I use in my living room are keyboards.

              When I hear "remote," I think "something simple and dedicated that I can hold in one hand to easily control remotely-located things." I don't think "something with at least 60 buttons, some of which are actually useful, that takes up too much room on the coffee table, and functions only as a basic input for a single device."

              Huh? I'm not talking about the remote being a keyboard, I'm talking about the remote identifying itself as a ke

              • by adolf (21054)

                Huh? I'm not talking about the remote being a keyboard, I'm talking about the remote identifying itself as a keyboard. It's the equivalent of bar-code scanners that you plug into a keyboard port and that "type" whatever you scan with them.

                Oh, neat. Where do I buy one of those? Will it work with my other stuff, too?

                Keyboards have some buttons that are very good for remote control functions, like "up" and "down" and "left" and "right" and "enter" and "escape" and "pause/play" and "fast forward". Make a hand

                • by DdJ (10790)

                  So you're uninterested in turning things on and off, and adjusting the volume?

                  I'm uninterested in "just one remote for everything". (Volume is not a problem.) I have seen that work out so rarely that I prefer to avoid situations where people attempt it.

                  • by adolf (21054)

                    I've seen it work perfectly more often than not. It's not rocket surgery, but just a matter of having the right tools for the job....

      • I would not really prefer IR.

        I would prefer it be IR. I can already use my LG smartphone to control every IR capable AV device in my home, including projector screens and lighting setups. It is my one remote already. Works well with XBMC or Linux Media Center Edition. [linuxmce.org]

        While everyone else scrambles to figure out who will dominate this space, me and my home cloud will continue streaming all my media to all my devices and controlling it all with an array of USB, Ethernet, RS-232 serial, and IR input AND output (the latter via Linux Infr [lirc.org]

  • by MrMickS (568778) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @01:37PM (#46696719) Homepage Journal

    This is complete and utter rubbish. It may not be time now, but that doesn't mean that it won't happen. Media is converging, we are beginning to see a move away from traditional broadcasters towards creators dealing directly with the end users. It's going to take a little while before its possible, but it will happen.

    The evidence? Youtube for one. The production values are increasing, more content providers are releasing via YouTube and surviving on the advertising revenue generated from there. WWE for another, they're in the process of going direct to customer, cutting out the middle man. More content providers will go this way once there is a reliable revenue stream.

    If content providers go this way they will want their content to be available across all of these devices to maximise their reach. Perhaps it'll go the way of gaming, with the manufacturers paying for a small subset of exclusives initially but will that be sustainable in the long term? It's doubtful.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Youtube for one. The production values are increasing, more content providers are releasing via YouTube and surviving on the advertising revenue generated from there. WWE for another, they're in the process of going direct to customer, cutting out the middle man.

      LOL, if YouTube and wrasslin' are how we define the future of technology, the human race is doomed.

      I'll stick with my PVR, and a remote I can operate in a darkened room by touch alone.

    • by jythie (914043)
      Youtube is, in many ways, an example of the opposite happening. They are the new 'middle man', not that differnt from dealing with a cable company. Sure the barrier to entry are lower and there is no subscription, but they still control what you can and can not see, not to mention how you see it.
      • We all want open and free... Until people start abusing the open, and putting too much stuff that society doesn't want. Then we demand that we close it down for these exceptions.

        Right now we are in the middle of a societal struggle between freedom and protection.
        We want both, however it cannot work that way. If we want to be free, then we are open to danger. If you want someone to protect us from danger then we loose our freedom.
        To make it even more murky there isn't a good rule on what is safe and danger

      • Sure the barrier to entry are lower and there is no subscription, but [YouTube] still control what you can and can not see, not to mention how you see it.

        In what way? Point the web browser of your Android-based set-top device (be it Google or Fire) at any other website offering WebM or MP4 video, and should be able to display it.

    • by kamapuaa (555446)

      After 10 years and massive popularity, Youtube is a great place for cat videos. Bittorrent is a great place for stealing "Game of Thrones." If anything like what you're talking about happens, it's far in the future with some entirely new technological basis.

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @01:43PM (#46696785) Journal

    Really, most of us carry a computer in our pocket 99.9% of the time that dwarfs the entire Apollo space program, and nobody can figure out how to remotely control a plethora of network media devices in 2014?

    Seriously?

    • The problem is not that 'nobody can figure out how'. The problem is that '*everybody* can figure out how' in their own little proprietary way. The x86 ecosystem of incredibly interchangeable components is sadly the exception rather than the rule of how businesses choose to operate.

    • by alen (225700)

      almost every cable provider has a smartphone app so you can change channels via the phone

    • Isn't this iPhone thing you speak of the remote control for your TV?

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        No, because when I am watching TV is when I would normally have it over on the charger.
    • by jythie (914043)
      the problems are not technological in nature.
    • I seem to be doing okay with just one remote. It's not even a so-called "universal" remote. Just a cheapo programmable one that came with my AVR.

      As I have things configured now, my TV is the only device out in the open in my media room. The rest (aside from whatever game controller I'm using) is tucked away in a closet. Rather than deal with tedious wiring or ugly devices next to my TV, I use one of these [amazon.com], which I cannot recommend highly enough, to get IR signals into the closet where I keep my devices.

      As f

  • I still think that Google lost the opportunity with the TV when selling the "Motorola Cable Box" unit to Arris: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/... [pcmag.com]

    They had the opportunity on their hands to transform that unit and give a different kind of life to cable box subscribers.... too bad they didn't have vision for that.
  • I use my Samsung Galaxy S4 to control all of my devices (TV, DVD/Blu-Ray, DVR/Sat Box, Surround Sound, Roku, etc...) If only someone would make it so we can all control our living rooms by a smart phone app... Oh wait... :)

  • There was one at our house. Well, lets be honets, it was me. As the youngest, I was told to change channels (only 2 to choose from on OTA broadcast so it was a binary selection), wiggle the rabbit ears, adjust volume, turn the TV on or off, move the TV stand a little to change the viewing angle, etc.

    Now my kids have it lucky. I just make them find the remote controls :)

  • for live TV i usually only watch sports and i know which games are on which channels and at what times
    my wife will watch some reality shows and she knows when they are on as well
    for netflix i have profiles and lists set up
    HBO Go i have a list as well
    for premium movies i will rent from itunes or vudu. netflix is usually crap for a decent movie so i don't even bother searching for it

    i don't know why anyone would sit down and search for a specific show playing live or on a streaming service. anyone who watches

    • Well then, your use case is confirmed as the only valid one and you are indeed correct. There is no need for search on a TV box. Anybody who would use it is clearly part of a growing contingent of ne'er do wells.
  • I just assumed this was about positioning trojan spyboxes in everyone's living rooms in a contest to become the most valued data collection agency! Boy, am I relieved to hear it's just about entertainment! The face value version of this story sure is less scary than the real one.
  • by thevirtualcat (1071504) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @01:50PM (#46696885)

    "We absolutely support your ability to have one remote control for everything... so long as it's produced by us and we lease it to you for a nominal monthly fee." -- Every programming provider ever.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @01:51PM (#46696901) Homepage

    They screwed up the CEC control protocol so bad that nothing is compatible. They had a chance to spell out the CEC and then DEMAND that in order to use HDMI they must fully support CEC.

    TV and device makers are all ran by major retards that think they need to have special "secret" command codes. and it's complete BS. a LG tv set should be able to control any HDMI device hooked up to it.

    The blame lies at the feet of the idiots that Designed HDMI. They are the ones that need to be beaten with a sack of hot doorknobs.

  • I think that anybody that want to make a revolution and change the TV devices needs to focus first on the "Catalog of Contents".

    Content is King! they said, but nobody focus on giving content. I think that an interesting thing to really out phase the regular broadcast TV network services and make a full Internet-TV reality is to start building a catalog of Live TV. Like YouTube, UStream, but that people can create their own Live TV channels and with an easy manageable EPG standard and that broadcasters li
  • Oh good, an article bemoaning policies in place by increasingly irrelevant television operators. This is me using Netflix and not caring.
  • But they charge a monthly fee for what I presume is guide info and updates. One of the downsides is the Amazon app doesn't have access to the Prime features and there really aren't that many apps available. If I could put a cablecard in my Roku and attach a external drive to record shows to I would prefer that over my Tivo.
  • Why oh why is it just Apple, Google and Amazon battling it out? Honestly Sony and Microsoft have a huge leg up on these guys already. And then there are the other 'small' companies out there that tried and failed, like Samsung. Sorry but why is this crap being posted? It's barely an article.
  • Once again, the invisible hand of the broken market pokes consumers in the eye.

  • I'm not surprised that the cable and satellite TV companies want to their branding and interface in front of Amazon and the like. But I thought the point of these boxes was so that eventually you don't need the cable and satellite TV companies and get everything steamed over the internet to the set-top box. Cable and satellite TV companies can't control the interface if you don't use their services.
    • by alen (225700)

      i can see streaming for shows, but not for live events. not enough bandwidth and it's dumb to stream live sports via TCP/IP when there is a better protocol being used

      • by wile_e8 (958263)
        Not now, no. But eventually, once we all get hooked up to Google Fiber or equivalents and CDNs are beefed up, maybe.
        • by alen (225700)

          how will a CDN work for live events?
          CDN's are just caching data for older shows, not for streaming live events

          • by wile_e8 (958263)
            I'm not familiar enough with the inner workings of a CDN to say specifically, but I'm pretty sure something similar can be set up for live events. Instead of sending a single copy of an old show to a CDN to be distributed to all the downstream end users, a single live stream could be sent to a CDN equivalent and that could be forwarded to all the end users. Of course, I'm just a lowly end user spitballing here, so maybe I'm missing a huge hang up that would prevent this from happening.
            • by alen (225700)

              it's already being done, only difference is it's not streamed via IP to end users but sent via QAM to watch on tv through your cable box. streaming is a lot more overhead

              • by wile_e8 (958263)
                Well, the key word in my original post was *eventually*. Stuff like ESPN3, MLB.tv, and March Madness on Demand work already, I don't think it's too far out there to either increase bandwidth or develop more efficient protocols to handle more customers in the not to distant future.
        • by alen (225700)

          even then the last mile is not the limiting factor on live events, it's level 3 other other tier 1 providers. since every sport every team plays half their games away from home, there isn't enough bandwidth for everyone to stream every game live cross country

      • i can see streaming for shows, but not for live events. not enough bandwidth and it's dumb to stream live sports via TCP/IP when there is a better protocol being used

        Multicast works perfectly for this.
        If cable companies transitioned to IPv6 they could easily and efficiently multicast a single live feed to all boxes, all boxes in a given market, whatever.
        It's workable with IPv4, but you've got fewer addresses and you'll be choking the pipe because it's more of an all or nothing approach.

  • With music, Apple had enough of a stranglehold over online sales that music companies had to relent and come to their senses with things like removing DRM.

    It also meant they would sell through anyone, because they want to erode Apple's dominance of music sales.

    Well either because the video guys were paying attention (ha!) or sheer blind luck, there's simply no one major player in online video distribution. So for any provider of content they are free to wind their way through one distributor, through a han

  • A Sony DS3 w/ thumb keyboard connected to an HTPC running Xubuntu.

    OK well I need another remote for the TV itself, but if I was using a PC monitor and separate speakers I wouldn't!

  • Its also that you simply cannot get any two people/organizations to accept 'not invented here'. We can't even agree on how to fasten a windshield wiper to an arm or what pieces of plumbing should be used to screw something into a water pipe with.

    Tivo actually eliminated my need for other remotes most of the time because it made the satellite box/cable box a slave to it. I liked that, because I was able to switch from directv to dish to comcast and get their new customer deals, plug in the box and my shows

  • I said this in another thread... But in short, I bought a chromecast ($39), installed Plex on it, and gave my wife a tablet... She prefers it over the remote. She can browse content on the tablet, and then hit 'play', the TV is the remote display for the tablet. If the tablet had IR, she could lose the remote entirely but as it is, she still needs the remote to turn on the TV and set the Volume. In fact, she says I can remove the Acer Veriton that _was_ her Plex frontend (and the keyboard as well)...

  • At first I thought they just hadn't heard of universal remotes, or programmable remotes...
    I read the article, and wow, just some old fogey who thinks tech is moving too slowly for his tastes, and that live content providers lock-in with cable and satellite providers is unbreakable. My guess is that if the lock-in is so strong, and cable and satellite providers don't budge then the whole mess of them will go the way of the dodo in favour of new content providers that aren't so encumbered.

  • the current tv landscape has already been disrupted. It is only a matter of if networks and cable come kicking and screaming or become irrelevant. So far, looks like networks are choosing to become irrelevant.
  • Remote controls can be regulated. That's the civilized way to deal with such issues.

  • Seriously, these companies could easily solve this and with a dirt cheap solution.
  • by Swampash (1131503) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @08:35PM (#46700937)

    Sports.

    It's the only sort of TV entertainment where the value of the product drops like a stone relative to the time since broadcast.

    Game of Thrones? Awesome, can't wait, will download and watch it when I get some spare time.

    Superbowl? I'm putting my life on hold so I can watch the broadcast in real time.

    Live sports is the only sort of TV entertainment that is PIRACY-RESISTANT. That's where the money is, so that's where the content licensing battles will be fought.

  • No matter how much you try, there is always one button that each remote has, you need, and that cannot easily be duplicated on a universal. This is the same problem that we have with e-payment. A system that works for all cannot arise as each player wants to be the only game in town.

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