A few years ago, billionaire Paul Allen instructed the design team at Digeo, his Seattle-based digital video recorder company, to come up with a TV remote that was like a cell phone, according to a well-placed source.
Allen felt there had to be a better way to control a digital video recorder than the traditional cable remote, with its dozens of buttons. He's known to be hands-on with many of his investments, including Charter Communications.
So the Digeo designers spent well over $100,000 developing a remote that literally looked like a mobile phone, this source said - it even flipped open like a Motorola Razr.
But when they presented the device to Allen, he took one look at it said, "I didn't mean it had to look like a cell phone. I just meant it had to be as easy to use." The project was subsequently abandoned, according to the source.
Digeo CEO Greg Gudorf, asked last week about the Allen anecdote, said nobody at the company had heard of the story.
In any case, Gudorf argued, the current remote control for Digeo's Moxi HD DVR has a "very different feel from a cable remote" in terms of shape as well as functionality.
"Cable remotes often have to work across many different boxes," he said. "Ours is specifically designed for the Moxi interface. The remote and what's on the screen have to work together."
That said, Gudorf added: "We're always talking about new ideas."