Samsung, LG, Google, and Apple’s controllers all amount to what I categorize as “secondary” controllers in respects to controlling the contents of a “smart” TV. Don’t get me wrong, these devices are functional and convenient… but are only functional and convenient in specific aspects of Smart TV and fail in a universal sense. Especially when the concept of a “smart” TV is convergence of multiple platforms and functions, these input devices can not maintain the status of a “main” controller. And it’s this MAIN, all-in-one input device that is the missing piece to the success of Smart TV.
However, because the companies have failed to deliver an effective controller to control their next-generation TVs, the smarts of their TVs have become worthless, leaving consumers with an unnecessary amount of options they can’t efficiently use, leading to the conclusion that the current “smart” TVs are junk products that even the manufacturers wouldn’t even use. Just look at how each generation of TVs they come out with have different remotes each time…
As previously discussed in “Back to the Drawing Board”:
- Input Device must be: 1) handheld, 2) ergonomic, and 3) all-in-one.
- Handheld: because we’re leaning back or lying down on the couch.
- Ergonomic in regards to minimizing physical discomfort and thereby maximizing UI efficiency, with a strong emphasis on satisfying the ‘lean back’ experience of the living room setting.
- “All-in-one” consists of: mouse, keyboard, TV remote, and game controller functions.
Let’s take a look at how the input devices currently out in the market square up to such “basic” standards…
 Samsung: The Touch Screen Remote
The Smart TV’s merit is that you can comfortably sink into the sofa and enjoy the full potential of the Internet and TV on what is assumed to be the biggest monitor in your house… the TV screen. That’s the biggest hook in this transition from a rather uncomfortable desktop setting to an obviously more comfortable TV environment.
The best thing about touch technology is its sensitivity. With just the slightest touch, swipe, or pinch. the screen reacts!… But if you hand the consumer something as sensitive as a touch screen remote, consumers will naturally concentrate their focus on the touch screen rather than allowing their full attention on the TV screen. Users can’t “feel” their way around on the flat, uniform surface and don’t have that initial satisfaction of a response. Everyone knows the feeling of pressing down on a nice, bouncy key. You know what you want and you get the response for it. Looking from the TV, to the remote, and back to the TV simply takes away from the whole “relax-on-the-couch” experience. Do I really have to look down every time I click “menu,” or god forbid, browse the Internet on my “smart” TV.
Let’s get one thing straight. Touch was great for the phones and tablets. No, it was perfect… since you were interacting with the screen in which you were controlling. But in the 10-foot environment (10-foot refers to the distance from you and the TV), the touch-concept loses it’s “touch” and fails to meet the expectations of the living room setting.
BUT of course some people would argue that continuously nodding their head back and forth like a human bobble-head is not that bad considering the convenience of having a remote on their smart phones they already carry around. Regarding this all-in-one aspect, what if a phone call comes in… on your phone? Or what if you receive a text message on your “remote”? Does everyone watching the TV have to stop what their doing? Do they buy another remote control JUST for these circumstances? Looking at recent research, it’s not too terribly difficult to imagine that people like to multi-task while watching TV… multi-task on their smartphone of tablet that is. The idea of connecting your smartphones/tablets to the TV is a no-brainer! But this only pertains to short-term relations, say sending a video from your tablet to the TV screen with a flick or tap of your finger. But beyond that, as research shows, you continue to use your phone and tablet for multi-tasking purposes (emails, facebook, twitter, and whatnot) and are not expected to devote the use of your phone/tablet to just a singular use. To ask a consumer to do so is for the company to slap the consumer in the face.
Touch is the “new” thing. I get it. But should that really be a reason why we should defend all the troubles we have to go through to do simple tasks? Are we really trying to satisfy ourselves with these nuisances when it’s so much easier to do better? It sure looks to be that way…
 LG: The Magic Motion Remote
Minority Report. Boy, was that a good movie! At first thought, you wish we lived in a world that could actually control a user-interface like that. However, if you noticed how Tom Cruise was controlling the interface, he was standing up. Continuing to point out the obvious, this is no method of controlling the TV. That was a specific user interface that relied heavily on movement to function. This might be the user interface used to solve the mystery murders of the world, but it isn’t the answer to a consumer lying on the couch in his pajamas.
The LG Magic Motion functions very similarly to the Nintendo Wii: The Wii controller is innovative, fun, and unique, something new that the consumers really wanted. However, the Wii controller can only be used for Wii content. Without the specific motion-required content, the motion controller loses its purpose. To bring this into the already passive nature of relaxing on the couch, this method is tiring to say the least. As for inputting characters, this is the most drawn out method imaginable: you have to pull out an on-screen keyboard to select each character to input even the simplest of sentences. Especially with the rise of social networking, this device should never have passed the conceptual stage as the main controller for LG’s Smart TV. This is the worst case scenario out in the market so far.
 Google TV
-Google TV has two “main” controllers (“main” meaning the “best” of their multiple TV controllers), one from SONY and the other from Logitech. Why are there two? If there was a better controller, than wouldn’t the two companies have come to an agreement? It seems as though SONY and Logitech both saw flaws in each other’s works, didn’t agree, and instead of coming to a solution, had us decide. We did and we didn’t like it. I hope this didn’t come as a surprise…
Google commercial: “Google TV brings everything you love about the web to your television.” This is all simplified through a convenient search engine, Google’s bread and butter. So naturally, the keyboard has been their most important aspect. But, should they sacrifice the accessibility of the other contents of the Smart TV just to prove a point that their search engine is obviously their center piece? SONY created a handheld rectangular remote that centered around the keyboard with buttons, buttons, buttons, and more buttons (nicknamed the ‘thousand-button nightmare’!), while Logitech just came out with an extended keyboard with a touchpad extension. The keyboard in general is long and bulky and has therefore failed to hypnotize the consumers to the comforts of the couch for 15 years and counting. What was Logitech thinking? Or were they even thinking at all?
SONY, Logitech, and Google. Three of the biggest companies got together and made big noise around Google TV, a “smart” TV—as you can imagine, anticipation was high. But now that it’s actually come out, it’s only been a big disappointment. How big? The Smart TV set-top box from Logitech was predicted at $500. It was priced at $300 when it came out at the end of 2010. Not even a year later in late April of 2011, Logitech announed a price cut to $250. Not two months after that Logitech dropped the price down to a lovely $99. This was due to the fact that there were more Logitech set-top boxes being returned compared to their modest sales. To put it into perspective, their final price was 1/5 of what it was predicted to be and a 1/3 of what it actually started out as. And for the cherry on top, Logitech has decided to stop production and pull out… This signifies the company’s draining confidence in the convenience of their Smart TV. I say convenience because it was defintely not about content as they are trying to portray–even with the number of contents available at the start, it was enough to satisfy a consumer experience. But it was a terrible experience to try and access the limited number of contents with their keyboard, making it seem that pulling out your laptop on your couch was more convenient. And still to this day, only the tech-savvy seem to know “of” the Google TV, let alone grasp the potential of a genuine “smart” TV.
Was this the maximum intellectual/technological capabilities that these so-called “front-running” companies could come up with…together? The companies that were shocked with the emergence of Apple’s iPhone and iPad, would not, could not, let Apple control and steer the TV market as well, and in their hurry, they came out with something that was essentially nothing.
The best metaphor that sums up the current situation is the “mis-button” scenario. So in a hurry, these companies started buttoning up their shirts, but because they were in such a hurry, they started buttoning up with the wrong hole. Now here are the two scenarios:
1) These companies didn’t know they “mis-buttoned” and went out into the public looking like a mess. OR…
2) These companies knew they “mis-buttoned,” were in such a hurry that they went out into the public anyways.
Either way, they have to un-button their shirts sooner or later. It’s just going to cost them a lot of money to do so, but nonetheless, it’s inevitable. It’s almost like watching the The Three Stooges stumbling over each other.
 Apple TV
We stated that the smart TV is a convergence of the PC and the TV; as Apple stated themselves, Apple TV is not a Smart TV. Steve Jobs came out in a previous D8 conference explaining that Apple TV was only a hobby, only dipping its feet into the TV market. Steve Jobs knows better than anyone else of the importance of an input device, and that a new input device must be in hand in order to create a “smart” Smart TV.
If you sell a can, consumers will have to open it. Selling the consumers a saw or hammer just doesn’t seem too convincing. That’s why Steve Jobs will not come out with a “Smart” TV unless he has this “can opener.” Although he does mention other components that play a role in the difficulty of marketing the Smart TV, you have to have a “smart” TV in order to even have an argument.
However, taking a look at the reverse side of the situation, if such an innovative device were to be created, out of everyone, Steve Jobs would be the first to grab it. With the iPod, iPhone, iPad, Mac, and now with the connectivity of the iCloud, Steve Jobs has everything he needs for a complete N Screen solution… except for the TV. With the TV, Steve Jobs will have created an empire controlling a complete universal home network. With the TV, everyone will realize Steve Job’s ambitions, his end goal, the reason he took the market as he did step by step. You can bet with an Apple TV, Apple will cater to consumers with other Apple products. What that means is, if you have an Apple TV, you would be well advised of the advantages/conveniences of having an iPhone, and/or iPad, and/or Macs, and so on… It’s all led up to this integration especially with the cloud in place, and the Smart TV is the answer in bringing this all together.
Yet, with the simple controller that Apple has, or even if they were to add voice, motion, or mind control, the device will only satisfy as a secondary input device. This is because all the contents of the PC have centered around the functionalities of the mouse and the keyboard. To bring in something new is to go back and redo the PC, which only makes things more complex for us, the users. You have to understand, we are dealing with the TV’s target audience now. This covers not only the “up and rising” generation, but spans from toddlers to adults, both of whom may not utilize the PC as substantially as the middle generation.
Simple is best. Can’t argue with that. But if it can’t control everything, it isn’t the best.
 Microsoft TV
One of Microsoft’s main aspirations is to bring the contents of the PC into the living room using the TV screen as the monitor… sound familiar? 1997, they bought a company called WebTV Network for $425 million; they were one of the first to go knocking on the doors of Smart TV. Whenever Bill Gates had the chance, he would explain how the PC would be the center of any major IT convergence, and he was completely right. Internet, TV, DVR—Microsoft attempted to pull these features together through the UltimateTV, the MSN TV, Mediacenter, and currently, the Mediaroom, a 15 year struggle, and still Microsoft has failed to bring the consumers into the living room. Like Google, Samsung, LG, and so many others, Microsoft is left with only their contents and no delivery.
If a single device could control all the applications that are already out for the PC, smart phone, and tablet, plus the applications to reel in people from the TV audience that aren’t used to the PC, it would have the potential to open the doors to a “Whole New World”~
Isn’t this the real Smart TV?
All the technical aspects of the Smart TV are out there right now. If there is an all-in-one controller for the consumers to comfortably use, the chance to flip the IT world around is imminent.