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Apple Universal Remote

There’s no such thing as a “given” with Apple these days, but if I had to guess which consumer electronics accessory category the company could be looking to enter right now, the universal remote market would be in my top five. It’s not just that people want such things, or that companies like Logitech sell all sorts of expensive Harmony remotes. Or that Apple is widely considered to own the “simple user interface” category. Or that it’s building the same Infrared sensor into all of its product lines. Well, maybe it is just those things, which together suggest that there’s (1) demand and (2) money to be made on (3) an Apple core competency type of product that (4) almost all of its computers (and Universal Docks for iPod, and iPod Hi-Fis, and Apple TVs) now support.

Apple TV’s omission of a volume control was what started me thinking this past week about an Apple Universal Remote. Sure, there could easily be other reasons the unit prevents you from even optionally attenuating its analog volume - entirely unlike the iPod Universal Dock, which implemented the same feature without incurring the scorn of audiophiles - but the omission seems like a natural justification for Apple to offer an upgraded, pricey Infrared remote for all of its products and your existing home AV setup. “We wanted to offer serious home AV users the best possible listening and control experience,” the company would say, “hence, Apple Universal Remote.”

The release of such a device might also explain why, back almost two years ago, Apple CEO Steve Jobs smiled but wouldn’t say anything in response to an inquiry regarding remote control of one’s iTunes library via AirPort Express. Everyone thought the smile meant, “it’s coming right away.” But perhaps the company was still working on its big picture strategy for invading the living room and trying to determine whether RF, Wi-Fi, or IR technology was the way to go for the remote. Like it or not, IR seems to have won (see: all those Apple products above), most likely because other devices use IR too, and it’s the least internationally regulated standard of the three.

What do you think? Would you want/buy an Apple Universal Remote, or is there another solution out there that’s already good enough for your needs?

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Comments

1

As for Jobs’ smile in the article you linked to, Keyspan did release an “AirTunes remote”.

I’ve got a Logitech Harmony which I picked up during a labor day sale for a song, and it has, I think, made my life immeasurably better. The execution of the remote itself is brilliant in concept, remembering the states that all your gear are in so it knows, for example, how many button presses are needed to get your TV to the right input or whether to power it on in the first place.

The hardware could be better; it’s no TiVo remote in terms of comfort.

The computer-based software is absolute crap. It’s infinitely better than setting up a run-of-the-mill universal remote, but particularly on the Mac side of things, it’s buggy as hell.

Honestly, it seems like a small market for Apple to be attacking. But then, I once thought that about music players.

Posted by mattwardfh in Texas on March 26, 2007 at 6:31 PM (CDT)

2

Oh man would that be awesome!  Just last night I finally set up my Onkyo remote to control my DVR/Cable Box, DVD Player, and TV - if Apple came out with a Universal Remote for <200, I would definitely consider getting it.  I think it is definitely a possibility, and maybe it would all be touch screen and have the multi-touch iPhone technology, as well as being able to remotely (no pun intended) display what is on the television, so you could be in another room?? (just an idea.)

Also, this doesn’t really have any pull on whether Apple is working on a remote, but Steve Wozniak left Apple a very long time ago to create one of the first universal remotes…

Posted by spyderracer393 on March 26, 2007 at 6:44 PM (CDT)

3

It would have to be better than a Harmony - hard to do, as that system is robust and fairly easy to set up - and more flexible than a Pronto.

It would also have to be well under $200.  I suppose Apple could do it, but so many have such a head start in this space.

Posted by malren on March 26, 2007 at 7:00 PM (CDT)

4

Most of the existing universal remote products are hideously expensive, some of them literally are more expensive than a Windows tablet computer!

Their user interfaces suck, many of them look so ugly you would WANT to loose them down the back of the sofa.

If Apple came out with a universal remote at an iPod 5G (or Apple TV) price with the new iPhone user interface they would massacre the opposition.

Posted by John Lockwood on March 27, 2007 at 9:49 AM (CDT)

5

Just imagine a remote that worked like a Harmony, but the software had all of that Appley goodness in it!

Posted by Galley in Greenville, SC on March 28, 2007 at 10:01 AM (CDT)

6

There was once a universal remote with an Apple connection - Woz’s CL-9 CORE.  Anybody else old enough to remember that??  I LOVED mine, though, the quality left much to be desired.  I have a Harmony 880 now, but, still yearn for a modern working CORE.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CL_9

Posted by Tom on March 28, 2007 at 3:30 PM (CDT)

7

I would buy it in a heartbeat. The Harmony’s the best out there right now, but I think Apple could certainly trump it on simplicity.

Posted by cxc273 on March 29, 2007 at 11:23 AM (CDT)

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