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The Death of the Remote Control

7/12/2011 6:39 PM

Someday, dedicated TV remotes will seem as quaint as rotary-dial telephones.

Smartphones and tablets are taking over as the way people will control their TV experience.

Latest example: TiVo today released its first iPhone app, which turns your iPhone or iPod touch into a remote control for the DVR (with gesture controls), and also provides search, browsing, and lets you share comments via Facebook and Twitter.

TiVo previously released an iPad app with similar functionality (see TiVo Latest to Turn iPad Into a $500-Plus Remote Control).

tivo_iphone.jpgThe iPhone version of the TiVo App provides a “guest mode” — which lets users who don’t currently have a TiVo DVR check out search and browse features (it’s a marketing ploy: see what you’re missing?). In addition, the app supports TiVo Series3, HD and HD XL DVRs. TiVo expects to release an Android version soon.

The app, available from the iTunes Store here, is similar to those from pay-TV providers including Comcast, Cablevision, Verizon, Dish Network and AT&T.

Independent developers are embracing the idea, too (see Startup Relaunches Social TV Remote-Control App As ‘BlinQ’).

Why is this taking root? Because there’s a natural affinity at play here: Many people use tablets and smartphones while watching TV. It’s a logical “second screen” to provide navigation and related content (see Most Tablet, Smartphone Owners Use Them While Watching TV).

To be sure, the shift to smart devices as a replacement for remotes won’t happen overnight.

Cable operators will need to continue to offer some kind of remote controls with their own boxes (not everybody has a smartphone or tablet, or wants to use such a device to watch TV). And the remote makers are still kicking around some interesting new ideas for why a dedicated controller makes sense, such as gesture-based features — see Cable Show 2011: Notes on Remotes.

For more on this topic, be sure to catch the free Multichannel News webinar next week, The Ultimate TV Companion, on Wednesday, July 20, at 11 a.m. ET. Our speakers are: Comcast Interactive Media’s Tom Blaxland; Current Analysis’ Yoav Schreiber; and Motorola’s Neeraj Sinha.

For more info and to register: multichannel.com/TVcompanion.

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