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Your Next TV Interface Will Be a Tablet 210

waderoush writes "You can forget all the talk about 'smart' and 'connected' TVs: nobody, not even Apple, has come up with an interface that's easy to use from 10 feet away. And you can drastically curtail your hopes that Roku, Boxee, Netflix, and other providers of free or cheap 'over the top' Internet TV service will take over the world: the cable and satellite companies and the content owners have mounted savvy and effective counterstrikes. But there's another technology that really will disrupt the TV industry: tablet computing. The iPad, in particular, is the first 'second screen' device that's good enough to be the first screen. This Xconomy column argues that in the near future, the big-screen TV will turn into a dumb terminal, and your tablet — with its easy-to-use touch interface and its 'appified' approach to organizing content — will literally be running the show in your living room." Using a tablet as a giant remote seems like a good idea, and a natural extension of iPhone and Android apps that already provide media-center control. Maybe I'm too easily satisfied, but the 10-foot interface doesn't seem as hopeless as presented here; TiVo, Apple, and others been doing a pretty good job of that for the past decade.
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Your Next TV Interface Will Be a Tablet

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  • Or do you just have a dedicated tablet that never leaves the viewing area? What about multiple TVs? Gets expensive really quick.

    • Why even have a TV? Since I had my tablet I noticed that I watched the big tv much less. My wife and daughter do the same with their tablets. When we moved to our new house last month we never bothered getting a new tv. The nice thing about a tablet is that it is the same as a 50" TV 8ft from the sofa when it is within reach plus the added benefit that you can take it everywhere you go. Now the living room is much cleaner and quieter.

      • by mspohr ( 589790 )

        So... you all huddle 20" away from your 10" tablet (recommended viewing distance)?
        Who holds the tablet?
        Sounds very cozy for the three of you.

    • Or do you just have a dedicated tablet that never leaves the viewing area? What about multiple TVs? Gets expensive really quick.

      Uhm, this has already happened in some high dollar home theatre installs. Crestron [] and other whole home media solutions have touch screen tablets that dock into the wall near the TV, have a lock mechanism so kids can't take it off the wall, and allow you to control the volume and TV channel / music & lighting in every room of the house already. They have had iPad and iPhone apps for this too that lets you administer the system remotely and even view security cams via Internet for at least the past 2

  • by Osgeld ( 1900440 ) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @01:32PM (#39159121)

    Has been for decades, without external network access it does nothing, I have to plug it in to cable, radio or computers for it to be useful.

  • by QuatermassX ( 808146 ) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @01:34PM (#39159145) Homepage

    I think the author of the article summarises the state of the industry quite nicely. We're in the middle of a massively muddled migration from broadcasting toward video on demand (or whatever you want to call it) and delivered over IP. The "connected TV" apps in development in agency labs everywhere are going to fail spectacularly unless they are looking to make apps for iOS, Amazon (not "generic" Android) and perhaps Windows that stream video content.

    I already use my iPhone and iPad as remotes with AirPlay it's absurdly simple to flip video onto any screen in my house or office.

    But will broadcasters like Sky and Comcast go for this? And will this fly in non-American/European countries where state and local satellite broadcasters will fight like hell not to be disintermediated?

    What do we think?

    • by rev0lt ( 1950662 )
      You mean, providers like Meo [Portugal] ( that already use IP-based infrastructure to deliver multi-channel content to virtually any major internet-connected device?
  • Relabel some of the controls for channel and volume up and down and source select, and you're sorted.

    Seriously. It's so intuitive to use as an on-screen pointing device for more complex selections, but it's about the size of the remote that came with my last TV. You could mount the IR LEDs for the "sensor bar" somewhere in the bezel, without having to have extra stuck-on bits.

    • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

      Yeah, LG included this in their 2011 high end TVs, and I believe they are expanding to even more models this year.

      It's pretty cool for apps designed for it (like the Wii or iPad interface is great for apps designed for them) but because of that, it does require rethinking UIs to really take advantage of it (which is ok for apps built to run on the TV itself, but not much of an option for separate boxes like DVRs, BD players, game consoles, etc)

  • Old news is old. (Score:4, Informative)

    by pecosdave ( 536896 ) * on Saturday February 25, 2012 @01:42PM (#39159189) Homepage Journal

    I already control my media with my phone. I have a DLNA/UPNP server and a DLNA/UPNP BluRay player. My phone can watch the movies or send them from the server to the player.

    I bought the HDD with the server off of over a year ago, and I've found that XBMC makes my dedicated drive look crappy (but the dedicated drive takes less power and space).

    I started this back in my iProduct days with iTunes. I just wanted something a little less iWalledGarden so I went with UPNP as much as possible (due to it being totally open) with DLNA as a sort of "make it work smoother with products that don't like open" patch.

    To top it all off my Bluray player has a remote control application for my phone that doesn't say anything about being DLNA.

    • Sony Tablet S - it's an Android tablet that can do DLNA, Sony Media Remote over IP, AND has an IR blaster built in with an awesome multi-device interface. Good looking tablet, controls everything, can "throw" and "catch" media to my network connected TV.

      So it's quite likely that my next TV interface will be a tablet... because my CURRENT TV interface is a tablet

      • Thanks to my Bluray player the TV I'm piping this to is an SD 36" Mitsubishi Diamatron tube....
        At least the Bluray player is HD.

        (I'm going to get an LG HDTV eventually)

  • Buttons required (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @01:42PM (#39159201) Homepage

    The whole point of TV is to veg out and channel surf. It's called an "idiot box" for reason. Anything that takes your eyes off the screen ruins the experience. This is why a pad remote will never work in a million years on the market. You simply must have physical tactile buttons on a remote. Some virtual interface on a sheet of glass will not do.

    This idea is an epic fail!

    • Re:Buttons required (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @02:16PM (#39159397) Homepage

      Not everybody flat lines when they are watching TV.

      I see people using iPhones / iPads / Androids who appear to be routinely operating with less than a dozen functional neurons, so the bar here isn't very high.

    • by ninetyninebottles ( 2174630 ) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @02:58PM (#39159609)

      The whole point of TV is to veg out and channel surf. It's called an "idiot box" for reason.

      I disagree. One way of using a TV is to channel surf through lots of crap. Another way is to pull up a queue of shows you're interested in and watch one of the ones on top. Another way is to pull up a specific show or movie via search o by inserting a disc. Yet another way is to watch a genre specific channel of shows.

      You're making the mistake of thinking one use case (maybe one you prefer) is and will remain the dominant use case. Current TV remotes are optimized for that use case and they really, really, really suck for most of the others. Navigating a list of shows for on demand TV, for example, is painfully bad.

      Anything that takes your eyes off the screen ruins the experience.

      For channel surfing one could have a modal interface with two huge buttons to prevent one having to take their eyes off the screen, but it is not clear this will remain a common use case when televisions are networked and more capable. For things like selecting a Netflix show (for example), I'd rather have a handy tablet to select from a list where I can type in search terms and touch the titles directly. trying to use a keyboard or remote where I need to type letters, while looking up at a big screen is no fun at all.

    • The whole point of TV is to veg out and channel surf. It's called an "idiot box" for reason. Anything that takes your eyes off the screen ruins the experience.

      That doesn't make any sense.

      The "experience" is when you are watching something. When you are actually switching through channels trying to find something to watch, there is no "experience".

      In fact the tablet is far superior for what you are describing. Instead of flipping channels one at a time, wading through commercials to get to see what is on,

    • The whole point of TV is to veg out and channel surf.

      You missed that whole bit about Video on Demand and how a tablet interface would improve this. We're not talking about people who put it on a channel and leave it on, a trickle of drool dripping from the corner of their mouth.

  • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @01:43PM (#39159205) everyone can have their own tablet and fight over control of the boob tube.

    And do people really feel the need for an "'appified' approach to organizing content" on their TV? Sheesh, get a life.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @01:44PM (#39159209) Homepage

    We'll probably see a generation of remotes that look more like a e-reader, with a nonvolatile display. Most tablet devices require charging daily, if not more often. TV remotes today only need batteries once every few years.

    • by microcars ( 708223 ) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @01:53PM (#39159273) Homepage

      You seem to be treating the iPad as a dedicated TV remote that never gets used for anything else.
      The iPad is already next to me whenever I am watching TV. I check texts, emails, look up actors that are in the movies we are watching, etc etc.
      When I am done watching TV, I don't leave the iPad on the couch, it goes with me, unlike the remote that is normally dedicated to the TV.

      So why wouldn't I charge it every day?

  • by plover ( 150551 ) * on Saturday February 25, 2012 @01:46PM (#39159229) Homepage Journal

    I've not seen a 10 foot interface done well. Most are too much like the giant accessibility font versions of GUIs. They all look like I have a 420i display on a 19" TV that's 10' away. If I have a big screen with 1080p, please put more stuff on it! Paging down through a channel guide five lines at a time when I could easily be viewing 20 or more at a time is frustrating.

    And navigating with a 4-way button isn't the greatest, either. I'm thinking that using the iPhone as a Wacom pad-like device operating as a remote mouse would be a lot easier than click-up-up-up-over-over-oops-too-far-back-OK.

    IR remotes aren't the greatest, either. Without feedback, they have no way of ensuring the button pressed by the user makes it to the device.

    Kinect has an interesting concept: reach to the widget and hold steady until it activates. Not sure I like it, but at least they're trying something new. Of course, it's not nearly "ready enough" to be a general purpose remote, at least not yet. It can't identify the average couch potato if they're not standing up.

    The Sonos application on the iPhone is probably the kind of interface that works best. Use the local pad to browse and navigate, then once the selection is made, command the big screen to do it. Which is what the TFA is no doubt saying.

  • So the author is a fan of Apple TV even though he doesn't seem to be familiar with the concept. My nephew "sends movies" from his iPod to the TV now. I for one don't want to keep charging batteries in my "remote". TV is fine just the way it is. In fact, it's time for me to unplug cable and go back to real HD with the antenna.
  • by SpeZek ( 970136 ) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @01:56PM (#39159289) Journal
    Batteries. It's already annoying when the batteries in your remote run out every couple years. Now what: change them 3 times a week? Have a big ugly extension cable running across the floor to the coffee table for a recharging dock?
    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      Because it's so hard to put your phone or tablet on the charger each night. NOBODY will ever do that!

      • If you recharge before the battery dies, you risk burning out your battery. My cheepshit Tracfone Motorola's got a dying battery, 4 years old now, needs recharging every 2 days while on standby. It's developed a helluva memory somehow. They tell me some of the newer batteries don't get memories, but they cost 2-3 times as much, and I can't get one for my cheep phone.
        • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

          Oh please. Rechargeable battery memory hasn't been a serious problem since the days of nickel cadmium. If you actually have a NiCad battery in your phone, you are in a very, very, very small minority, and you'd probably be better off with a remote than that phone for controlling your TV anyway.

          • Like I say, i have a cheep Motorola Tracfone. It makes calls. Period. No camera, never bothered downloading any ringtones, it just makes calls. No apps to buy, no MP3 player, no video player. It just makes calls.
            • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

              I think the AC called this one.

  • My Windows Media Center setup was very plug-and-play and is easy to use from 10 feet away. The only issue are website that's use Flash for layout and consequently don't respect the browsers zoom setting.
  • Two hands (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jamesl ( 106902 ) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @02:00PM (#39159297)

    Just what I need. A two-handed remote.

    Please pass the chips.

  • by Brummund ( 447393 ) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @02:00PM (#39159299)

    Was there actually anything he predicted that can't be done with a iPad and an AirPlay-compatible device, like a receiver or Apple TV 2?

    • by alexhs ( 877055 )

      I was going to say basically the same think, then I searched in TFA for Airplay just in case...
      Turns out to be a misleading summary again...

      The summary of the article should be : Nobody could do a (good/intuitive/whatever) Interactive TV interface, not even Apple (in Apple TV) , so the future is to have an interface à la AirPlay with iPad2.

  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @02:02PM (#39159321)

    This sounds a lot like overkill, considering the amount of processing power in a tablet (and their beavy battery demands - the TV tablet will spend most of it's time on charge - which is even more inconvenient). Since all new TVs already contain a fair amount of "intelligence" the obvious choice is to increment what's already in the box, rather than needing to get a tablet computer for every member of the family - or one that can be used by everyone: from age 2 to age 100.

    Ideally, the need for controlling a TV should be on the decrease very soon. Hopefully it's not too long a wait until they are able to learn who wants to watch what and come up with their own plan to record, play and manage the various viewers' schedule.

    • by plover ( 150551 ) *

      It's not a "tablet for remote control." It's changing your thinking so that your TV set is just a big-screen extension of your personal device.

      • That concept only works if there's a 1 - 1 mapping between individuals (each of whom has a tablet) and TVs. In households that's simply not the case as even the people who have tablets aren't obsessively attached to them, so having to get up and find yours (as other peoples' would be security locked) defeats the whole idea of a remote control.

        Further, not everyone in a family (think 2 year-olds to grandparents) has a tablet or would be able to read/use the interface.

        The idea only works for people who li

  • Most every TV out there has an iPhone app to control it over ethernet/WiFi already.

    And DirecTV already has an app to control your satellite box.

  • by ZenDragon ( 1205104 ) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @02:12PM (#39159375)
    I have been doing this for quite some time now with my Android tablet, my phone as well. Why is it that whenever people write stupid articles like this they act like the iPad is some how leading the charge?? The only thing the iPad really has going for it is market share, otherwise this is nothing new.
    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      And I've been doing it for some time with my iPad, and even longer with my iPhone. What's your point?

  • I already do that. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JustShootMe ( 122551 ) <> on Saturday February 25, 2012 @02:15PM (#39159391) Homepage Journal

    I already do that. I have a Mac Mini attached to my TV running XBMC as a media server, and I use my iPad using rowmote as the controller. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Apple - but it Just Works. In fact, I like the setup so much I made the mac mini my dedicated media server and got an Airbook for development and everyday computing.

    Only thing I don't like is the Mac Mini doesn't have BluRay. Other than that, everything I could want.

  • This is extremely short-sighted. First: It's bizarre to think people who have a smart phone that does what they need and also a remote would want to "upgrade" to a smart phone and also an ipad they have to look at and fiddle with to get their TV to do something. Phone as a remote I can see but making the remote larger and more complicated at the cost of the viewer's experience.... no. Second: It's hard to look forward to a time when everything has as much power as it needs but that's what we must do. What
    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      Convergence: the functions of a TV (except for the big screen) will converge with smart phones and tablets. Your phone will know what you want to watch, recommend things for you, record shows (for the short remaining time that such a concept still means anything).

  • by MikeB0Lton ( 962403 ) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @02:29PM (#39159447)
    Remotes today all miss the big feature we want: two-way communication. If the state of the devices can be reported back to the controls, it opens the door for better interfaces. Until that happens across the industry, we'll be stuck with cluttered and confusing designs. Apple AirPlay is promising, but it requires a compatible device and expensive hardware (Apple TV, iPad, iPhone, etc).
  • I dropped TV about 9 years ago, due to unbearable stupidity and zero entertainment value.

    And even if it were, is there any news here?

  • by ffflala ( 793437 ) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @02:38PM (#39159501)
    There certainly are interfaces that are easy to use from 10'+ away: quality wireless keyboards with an integrated cursor control. My screen is over ten feet away and has been for some time. Honestly, it's not advanced wizardry to set one's menu and input font sizes to something readable from a distance.

    I currently use a high end wireless keyboard with an integrated mousepad, a Logitech DiNovo Edge. (Cheaper wireless keyboards with an integrated trackballs can do, but I've yet to find one that lasts.) Applications are set to escaped function keys, online streaming sources are prominently bookmarked, and the touch-activated lighted volume slider is an impressive stylistic touch. There is very little need to see and respond to a visual onscreen interface when watching or listening to media, only media selection.

    Yes it's a big, thin remote, but I find it far less a PITA than four differently-sized remotes tied to various devices, with overlapping and inconsistent functions.
  • I can only assume this guy is living ten or fifteen years in the past. Between cable TV (UK televisions have never had cable decoders built-in), Freeview and a PVR, I think I've used the internal tuner on a TV for a total of about 6 months since 1999.

  • And you live alone. Yaaay you.

  • I got rid of Tee-Vee eight years ago and I'll happily brick-interface with any TV set someone brings to my place.
  • Kids? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @03:04PM (#39159633)

    Do any of the people advocating using a $500 tablet as a remote to my $800 TV have any kids? The remote has been dropped more times than I can count (and that's just from me, not including the kids). It's regularly coated with chocolate, popcorn butter, and other food residue, and has survived more than one bath in coke.

    When my wife wants the remote, I just toss it to her across the room, something I'm not likely to do when it's a heavy tablet (even if I wasn't worried about her missing it and having it crash to the floor).

    I don't want a tablet to control my TV, I want a rugged remote and I don't want to add 50% (or even 10%) to the cost of the TV by having to purchase a tablet to control it.

  • Bullshit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @03:27PM (#39159729) Journal

    10' interface works exceptionally well. Ask any TiVo user. Simple, intuitive, complete. Thing is, for $170 a year, most consumers expect more content than guide data and software updates, or at least access to your shows and recorded data. The industry hated the concept of TiVo and killed the real content (no cable or sat for you!), the users hated the restrictions that kept them from the content they'd recorded and limitations on what could be played from their own network. TiVo puts everything else to shame when it comes to controls and useful simplicity. Really, any TV control box that I can plug in, hand my wife the remote and manual, and walk away is an absolute winner.

    The interface already exists, but it will be under patent lock and key for another decade.

  • At least, not until tablets have haptic interfaces so I can use it while looking at the TV instead of at the damn remote^W tablet -- and is small enough to do so while holding it in one hand while pressing the virtual buttons (or gesturing) with my thumb.

  • I've been doing exactly this for about a year now. I don't have cable and don't do physical media. Everything on my tv is streamed from my TV, the iPhone/Pad or for rentals we do grab it straight from the appleTV (though using the iPad as a remote for the keyboard)

  • Holding a tablet all day will make wonders for the health of the typical couch potato that just see tv,
  • It's going to be dictated by the publishers, editors, filmmakers, and content. On the one hand, the types of displays are starting to look like different brands of paper. On the other hand, the content providers are competing with good content produced years ago, which they can't monetize (e.g. Monty Python), as well as Youtube. But whoever makes or distributes something watchable will dictate the fate of the devices, and their remotes. They might choose to distribute for a hardware reason like the art
  • by pezpunk ( 205653 ) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @07:00PM (#39160779) Homepage

    DirectTv offers a nice free app for the iPad that has all the functionality of the remote, plus a bunch of other great features. you can stream some content to the ipad itself, you can use the ipad to control the contents of your DVR and recording schedule, you can set it up to know your favorite teams and show scores and game times/channels, etc. the ipad is actually much faster for switching channels than the remote, since you can use your finger to fling through the guide, as opposed to using directtv's super slow on-screen ui.

  • I think we may be getting soon is essentially an 7" touchscreen tablet that functions like an all-touchscreen version of the Logitech Harmony 1100 universal remote, except with even more functionality than what Logitech puts in their remotes. Essentially, the touchscreen functions for each device being controlled by the remote will be highly customized depending on the device being controlled. And unlike an iPad, this tablet remote controller uses both RF and IR signaling for maximum device compatibility.

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.