by Rene Ritchie, Daniel Rubino, Kevin Michaluk, Phil Nickinson
The living room is the next big technology battleground. The lines were drawn some time ago, with the likes of Sony and Microsoft on opposing sides. Then Apple got into the game — albeit as a “hobby.” But those were all traditional plays from the consumer electronics side of things. PlayStation. Xbox. Apple TV. All are powerful platforms, but none really leveraged mobile — at first.
That’s all changed, as have the players. Sony’s largely fallen out of the conversation, though it should gain more traction once the PlayStation 4 is released. Microsoft finally woke up with Windows Phone and integration with the Xbox 360, and mobile will be a major part of the upcoming Xbox One. The iPhone and iPad are as much a part of Apple TV as a traditional remote control. Google got into the game, first with the ambitious but underwhelming Google TV, then with the aborted Nexus Q — and now there’s the $35 Chromecast HDMI stick.
There are also plenty of la carte options. TVs, Blu-ray players, and receivers — any newer home entertainment components, really — might have a mobile app for Wi-Fi or Bluetooth remote control.
There's no shortage of ways to use your phone or tablet with your home theater. And while this adds some convenience — you’ve got your phone with you, might as well use it as a remote — it also adds another layer of complexity in the home theater system. How well does all this stuff work together? How do you switch from watching TV to a Blu-ray to Netflix? Have you created a whole new complicated workflow, just to be able to use your phone or tablet?
Have you created a whole new complicated workflow, just to be able to use your phone or tablet?
That’s not a small problem, but it's also not insurmountable. The major consoles aim to be “always-on” components. CEC-enabled devices and TVs can signal each other to turn on when needed. Logitech's excellent Harmony remotes have supported macro-like IR workflows for years. The trick, of course, is making it simple. “So grandma can use it,” we say.
There’s still a place for the traditional, tactile remote control. Phone and tablets are glass slates that you have to look down to use. Mobile might not replace the remote control, but it certainly can augment it.
Regardless, home wireless networks, broadband speeds and the components they both connect to have advanced enough that you’re going to be using your phone and tablet more and more in the living room.