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Experts and pundits have been jabbering quite a bit on the topic of why Apple's stock price has been falling like a rock. Some say it has to do with declining margins. Others say Apple's pipeline of products isn't as exciting as it could be. But no one ever mentions the real reason: Scott Adams bought shares in Apple.

When I buy a stock it marks the beginning of the company's nosedive to oblivion. My investment strategy is called "Buy at the wrong time and hold until all of your money is gone." So far my strategy has not produced superior returns. But investing requires patience. I just need to stick with it.

Just to be on the safe side, today I will give Apple some ideas for their next huge product. I think the world is ready for an Apple TV remote control.

What? Not exciting enough? Oh, you just wait. This is no ordinary remote control.

I'm imagining a device that is larger than a phone but smaller than the smallest iPad. I imagine it with lots of flash storage, WiFi, BlueTooth, and maybe infrared and other local radio frequencies for maximum flexibility.

Now imagine that your DVR and cable box both disappear. Those functions will be absorbed by a cloud-based service that works with the new remote control and connects to your TV through a wireless device that plugs into your big screen's HDMI jack.

The idea of "recording" a show will be retired. This is similar to the "on demand" services that cable and satellite TV companies offer, but without all the parts that suck. In other words, it will be designed right and include every TV show. That's very different from today's world of eighties-era interfaces and limited shows on demand.

Your first reaction is that the producers of television content would never allow Apple to store all of their shows in the cloud and redistribute them. Or perhaps network and studio deals with existing cable and satellite providers would make the arrangement I'm describing impossible from a business model standpoint. But keep in mind that the same was said of the music industry before iTunes blew that model up. I think Apple is the one company on earth that could get the TV industry to change how it does business. So for now let's talk about what is possible from a technology standpoint. I'll leave it to Apple to make the business and legal aspects work. That part is boring.

You might be thinking that new TV remote control hardware is unnecessary because that function can be moved to a simple app on your smartphone or tablet computer. But I think you'd find that an all-purpose device such as a phone or tablet will always be suboptimal for operating your television. For starters, you don't want your screen saver kicking in every half minute. You don't want to use up your phone's battery for watching TV, and you don't want to hunt for your app icon. I could list several other problems with an app-based approach, but I think you agree that your phone or tablet can never be better than mediocre as a TV remote. The best TV remote would be designed from scratch for that purpose.

The Apple TV remote could fix a number of problems and add lots of new features.

1. You'd never miss a show because you forgot to record it.
 
2. The "search for a show" function would be more like a Google search with onscreen keyboard. 

3. You could use the screen on the remote to watch one show while the big screen has another. Good for sports fans in particular. 

3. Divide your big screen into as many as nine channels playing at once, like picture-in-picture on steroids. 

4. When you leave the room, take your remote with you and the show continues playing on the remote so you miss nothing.

5. Text with others about the show. See behind-the-scenes commentary about the show while it is on. 

6. Send TV commercials to the remote control and let users "test out" of them by clicking on some ultra-simple questions, such as "Does the new Buick Regal have leather seats and photon torpedoes?" Get a question right and the commercial is skipped. 

7. Interleave two shows, so that as soon as a commercial comes on for one, the remote flips to the other until the commercials end. 

8. A front camera on the remote allows you to Skype/Facetime with friends while you watch TV and play games too.

9. Watch your shows on your phone or your iPad, via cloud, when you are away from home. 

10. Split the screen on your TV between a broadcast show and a web page connection you control from the remote. 

11. Imagine being able to freeze a TV image and zoom in the same way you do on your iPad, using your fingers to expend and contract the image. Do your own slow-motion replays for sports events. 

12. Imagine the remote doing facial recognition on actors and offering you links to their IMDB page so you can see more of their work. 

13. The remote would also do facial recognition of the person using the device and automatically hide channels you would have no interest in while suggesting shows you might like. Even the commercials would be customized to the viewer. 

14. Nielsen ratings would be handled through the remote. 

15. Reality shows could have viewer interaction and voting.  Just build their own app.

16. The remote would also function as a full Internet browser. 

17. Carry your TV remote and an extra HDMI wireless connector with you when you travel and turn any hotel TV into your personal TV. 

If you've ever used a universal remote control that works with multiple devices, you know what a pain in the ass they are. If you ever figure out how to program them, which isn't easy, they have a tendency to regularly lose their programming for no particular reason. And every time you add a new device, such as a DVD player, you have to reprogram it.

With the Apple remote you wouldn't need to control multiple devices. All content would live in the cloud and require the same set of commands to access.

One obstacle to this vision is Internet speed. Until the Internet gets faster, the architecture might require pre-downloading movies and content to the remote ahead of time based on user patterns. For example, my remote would always pre-download Modern Family as soon as it became available. Then I would only need to stream content from my remote to the TV.

Third parties could make apps that work on the remote control, such as an app to control window shades or temperature.

A big part of Apple's magic involves transforming something boring and ordinary into a product you can't live without. I think that on the first day that an Apple remote control comes on the market your old TV remote will look like a butter churn. You'll simply have to own the Apple remote.

There's a lot of talk about Apple inventing a TV. I think they will stay away from making the screen. That's too generic. Margins for screens will never be good. I think Apple will make a run at the remote control and move all of the important TV and DVR functions into the remote and the cloud. The TV screen will just have a connector that talks to the remote control.

That's my vision of the future of TV. The biggest obstacles will be the structure of the TV industry and existing contracts. I think the technology is all doable.

What else do you want Apple to design into the new remote?

 
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Jan 29, 2013
On the related note, dear Scott, as you have shared an idea: what's up with the idea you came up with some time ago? The one that should be in the process of implementation? Even if you don't want to disclose it yet, a few general comments would be interesting.
 
 
Jan 29, 2013
A device of portability and power undreamed of even a decade ago, and its probable result will be couch potatoes maintaining their passive immobility for hours longer than before. Main difference will be the ability to choose specific episodes of "Gilligan's Island" and argue Mary Ann vs. Ginger with like-minded intellects at the same time.

What I'm waiting for is pedal-driven generators for the home. We can at least burn a few calories while staring at screens.
 
 
Jan 28, 2013
Two words: short sell. Bet on your own bad choices by betting against the company!
 
 
Jan 28, 2013
How about a feature where a vision system automatically detects your laughs (and smiles) as you watch a show, then constructs your personal "laugh profile". The system then suggests comedies based on how you match other peoples' profiles.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 28, 2013
Almost all of that is already possible technologically. The stuff Scott brushed off as "boring" is the only reason we don't already have this stuff. However, unless Apple would be willing and able to price the remote very low ($75?) it's not going anywhere as a standalone device. I have a phone and a tablet that are both capable of doing all these things; I'm not shelling out for another device. Finally, reimagining TV from the ground up and you left COMMERCIALS in it??

Give me a subscription service like Netflix where titles don't randomly disappear and I'll be happy, even without all the technomagic stuff. In other words, again, licensing and contracts are the problem in TV today, not technology.
 
 
Jan 28, 2013
Cringley.com recently posted some interesting ideas on how to crack the licensing part of this. Search for his 3-part "Silicon Valley Conquers Hollywood".
 
 
Jan 28, 2013
Unfortunately, as much as I like your usual novel ideas, this isn't novel or even very well informed about the current state of things. Here's how your remote stacks up against current available reality:

>>I'm imagining a device that is larger than a phone but smaller than the smallest iPad. I imagine it with lots of flash storage, WiFi, BlueTooth, and maybe infrared and other local radio frequencies for maximum flexibility.

The iPod Touch or iPad Mini fit this in all but the infrared but based on current needs and your own description of this mitigating other devices there's no need for the outdated, line of sight infrared technology. WiFi and Bluetooth fulfill that much better now. The iPod touch isn't larger than an iPhone but there isn't a lot of size room between the iPod Touch and the iPad Mini. Looking for an in-between size is splitting hairs.

>>Now imagine that your DVR and cable box both disappear. Those functions will be absorbed by a cloud-based service that works with the new remote control and connects to your TV through a wireless device that plugs into your big screen's HDMI jack.

Done. Buy and AppleTV or a Roku or a Playstation 3 or an XBox. Sticking with Apple since you're looking at them. AppleTV does this handily with their iTunes store. Rent or buy TV shows and movies on demand, cloud based so you don't have to store them to watch them again and again. There is also Netflix streaming, Hulu Plus and even Youtube and Vimeo currently. I suspect once a deal is worked out with the networks there will be a flood of other content. The thing is the size of 2 decks of cards, is Wifi and has HDMI out. You can control it with the free Remote App for iOS and use that on any iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad.

>>The idea of "recording" a show will be retired. This is similar to the "on demand" services that cable and satellite TV companies offer, but without all the parts that suck. In other words, it will be designed right and include every TV show. That's very different from today's world of eighties-era interfaces and limited shows on demand.

>>Your first reaction is that the producers of television content would never allow Apple to store all of their shows in the cloud and redistribute them. Or perhaps network and studio deals with existing cable and satellite providers would make the arrangement I'm describing impossible from a business model standpoint. But keep in mind that the same was said of the music industry before iTunes blew that model up. I think Apple is the one company on earth that could get the TV industry to change how it does business. So for now let's talk about what is possible from a technology standpoint. I'll leave it to Apple to make the business and legal aspects work. That part is boring.

You dismissed the networks and studios but they are the only barrier to all shows being there right now. They are not in the same precarious position that the music industry was under the attack of Napster. They are holding out and while there are rumblings of possible deals, there have been for years. As you will see the technology part you are suggesting is already there. It is ONLY the networks that are holding this up.

>>You might be thinking that new TV remote control hardware is unnecessary because that function can be moved to a simple app on your smartphone or tablet computer. But I think you'd find that an all-purpose device such as a phone or tablet will always be suboptimal for operating your television. For starters, you don't want your screen saver kicking in every half minute. You don't want to use up your phone's battery for watching TV, and you don't want to hunt for your app icon. I could list several other problems with an app-based approach, but I think you agree that your phone or tablet can never be better than mediocre as a TV remote. The best TV remote would be designed from scratch for that purpose.

You dismiss the iPhone with an app but then most of your suggestions are for apps on your remote or describe functionality already available on any iOS device. You think an all purpose device i would be sub-optimal but that is exactly what you are proposing. There are no screen savers on iOS devices and whether you call it a remote, and iPhone, and iPod Touch or and iPad, if it has a screen that stays on all the time to do what you want it will not have any better battery life then current devices. You can't magically say it's not an iPone but is begged than an iPhone and does everything an iPhone does but with better battery life. I think you're way off base here in dismissing existing iOS devices to solve this problem. In fact, many other companions have produced remotes like you describe that were way worse than an apple device with a custom app which is why all those AV companies (like Crestron) now provide an app for use on an iOS device that does all the things their touch screen remotes did in the past (including controlling lights and curtains and AC, etc.) for a fraction of the cost.


>>The Apple TV remote could fix a number of problems and add lots of new features.

(note: for the following, when I say iOS I'm referring to any iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch model)

>>1. You'd never miss a show because you forgot to record it.
 
Done. AppleTV provides shows on demand from the major networks the day after they air for a few dollars each. Watch them any time.

>>2. The "search for a show" function would be more like a Google search with onscreen keyboard. 

Done. Enter a search field in the TV screen using the Remote app for iOS and an on-screen keyboard appears.

>>3. You could use the screen on the remote to watch one show while the big screen has another. Good for sports fans in particular. 

Technically possible now since the AppleTV and an iOS device are not exclusive to each other, you can watch anything you want on your iOS device in iTunes or Video App or even third party video apps like BBC or HBO GO. There are also sports "channels". If they are all on the same network you will only be limited by the bandwidth of your net connection.

>>3. Divide your big screen into as many as nine channels playing at once, like picture-in-picture on steroids. 

I can't imagine anyone other then Sherlock Holmes in the show Elementry who would want or even be able to use this. I also suspect that once Apple opens up the AppleTV to any third party app (something likely coming soon) then if there is an audience for that someone will make an app to do it.

>>4. When you leave the room, take your remote with you and the show continues playing on the remote so you miss nothing.

Again, niche functionality but you can technically do it now since your place in the show is saved as you watch it. Pause on the AppleTV and pick up from where you left off on the iPhone. It doesn't do it automatically as you leave the room but can you imagine watching TV with your family and you get up to pee and suddenly only you are watching it play on your remote as you walk out of the room? Doesn't make a lot of sense in the real world.

>>5. Text with others about the show. See behind-the-scenes commentary about the show while it is on. 

You can text while watching with any iOS device. Or even post to Facebook or Tweet. Amazon has X-ray that provides extra info on what your watching on the secondary device. There's no barrier to Apple doing something similar, Amazon releasing an app for iOS or a third party providing something.

>>6. Send TV commercials to the remote control and let users "test out" of them by clicking on some ultra-simple questions, such as "Does the new Buick Regal have leather seats and photon torpedoes?" Get a question right and the commercial is skipped. 

This sounds horrible. Please, no adds that force me to pay attention to them.

>>7. Interleave two shows, so that as soon as a commercial comes on for one, the remote flips to the other until the commercials end. 

This contradicts idea #6. You can't both skip ads and force us to watch them. AppleTV uses the pay per episode model so there are no ads at all. Netflix streaming is a subscription service with no ads at all. Modern streaming on demand makes the concept of switching between shows while ads are playing moot.

>>8. A front camera on the remote allows you to Skype/Facetime with friends while you watch TV and play games too.

Done. Any iOS device does this.

>>9. Watch your shows on your phone or your iPad, via cloud, when you are away from home. 

Done. Any iOS device already does this. They even remember your place in the movie or TV show.

>>10. Split the screen on your TV between a broadcast show and a web page connection you control from the remote. 

No need. Do the web on your iOS device while watching without compromising the picture and annoying other people trying to watch with you.

>>11. Imagine being able to freeze a TV image and zoom in the same way you do on your iPad, using your fingers to expend and contract the image. Do your own slow-motion replays for sports events. 

Again, not available but not a very handy feature when you really think about it but there are no barriers to using an iOS device to do this. Sports apps could provide this in the future if there is an audience. No need for this to be special from Apple.

>>12. Imagine the remote doing facial recognition on actors and offering you links to their IMDB page so you can see more of their work. 

Again, Amazon's X-ray does something like this. Facial recognition could be interesting and easily added later by Apple or a third party.

>>13. The remote would also do facial recognition of the person using the device and automatically hide channels you would have no interest in while suggesting shows you might like. Even the commercials would be customized to the viewer. 

A little creepy. I don't think people will want their TV watching them now any more then when people were creeped out by it in "1984". Also, no commercials please, targeted or not.

>>14. Nielsen ratings would be handled through the remote. 

Actually the remote wouldn't have anything to do with it. It would be an audit of the user's account; what did they buy, what did they actually watch, did they finish watching it, did they watch other episodes, did they watch an episode more than once, etc. No remote needed for any of that, they can do that now and probably already do.

>>15. Reality shows could have viewer interaction and voting.  Just build their own app.

No barrier to doing that now. A special Apple remote doesn't give us this.

>>16. The remote would also function as a full Internet browser. 

All iOS devices do this now.

>>17. Carry your TV remote and an extra HDMI wireless connector with you when you travel and turn any hotel TV into your personal TV. 

You carry your iPhone or iPad already. You can buy an HDMI adaptor of do this or you can just carry around an AppleTV with you too (it's really small). In the future, if hotels adopt Apple's open source Airplay standard and have an AIrplay compatible device in the hotel room you can just select it and stream from your iOs device to the TV. You can already do this now with any AppleTV as an alternative to playing directly from the AppleTV.

>>If you've ever used a universal remote control that works with multiple devices, you know what a pain in the ass they are. If you ever figure out how to program them, which isn't easy, they have a tendency to regularly lose their programming for no particular reason. And every time you add a new device, such as a DVD player, you have to reprogram it.

>>With the Apple remote you wouldn't need to control multiple devices. All content would live in the cloud and require the same set of commands to access.

Thus the lack of need of infrared.

>>One obstacle to this vision is Internet speed. Until the Internet gets faster, the architecture might require pre-downloading movies and content to the remote ahead of time based on user patterns. For example, my remote would always pre-download Modern Family as soon as it became available. Then I would only need to stream content from my remote to the TV.

Internet speed in major urban areas is already fast enough for full resolution HDTV and many devices including the AppleTV take advantage of it providing on demand 1920X1080 HDTV with 5.1 surround sound. Streaming from the remote specifically is a pointless distinction.

>>Third parties could make apps that work on the remote control, such as an app to control window shades or temperature.

Ignoring the fact that at the beginning you poo-pooed apps, this is already available from pretty much every home automation company on iOS.

>>A big part of Apple's magic involves transforming something boring and ordinary into a product you can't live without. I think that on the first day that an Apple remote control comes on the market your old TV remote will look like a butter churn. You'll simply have to own the Apple remote.

All of this already exists. The problem is the one thing you blithely dismissed as the easy part; getting the networks and studios to allow this content to be displayed on it. Look at HBO which has provided an HBO GO app for the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch where you can stream any HBO show you want BUT (and it's a big BUT) you have to already have a cable subscription to HBO to use it AND you you are blocked from streaming this to you AppleTV even though you can stream any other video content and there's even HBO GO for the Roku or XBox that allows viewing streaming HBO content through HBO GO on your TV. This is purely a legal issue that Apple is having a very hard time working out with the content owners. Get the content deals in place and the rest of it is already there.

>>There's a lot of talk about Apple inventing a TV. I think they will stay away from making the screen. That's too generic. Margins for screens will never be good. I think Apple will make a run at the remote control and move all of the important TV and DVR functions into the remote and the cloud. The TV screen will just have a connector that talks to the remote control.

Again, the distinction between the "remote" and the "connector" to the TV is irrelevant. They may make a screen so that they can have "first input" access, ie. be the default thing you see when you turn on your TV rather than it being one of several secondary sources of media piped in that you select from. Tech savy people don't care about this but the average persone would rather just buy it, turn it on and it's there. If Apple can provide a better screen and a better experience by selling the screen, they will. They will likely also continue to sell the hockey puck sized AppleTV box that you plug in on your own for people with projectors and other less common sized TVs.

If you really want this future you imagine and want it now you really should go try out an AppleTV paired with an iPod Touch or iPad Mini.
 
 
Jan 28, 2013
I could imagine some facial recognition be used to identify views and their age, and enact certain parental control mechanisms and language filters based on who is watching.
Perhaps even going so far as pausing and blanking the screen when Lucy wakes up and comes downstairs for a drink of water.

I cal also imagine late night teenagers wearing masks of their parents in an attempt to subvert the system.
 
 
Jan 28, 2013
All interesting ideas, but while we are waiting for all the licensing and technological hurdles to clear up, can somebody make an old school $15 universal remote with one simple upgrade:

Dedicated buttons with logos of popular channels like ESPN, ESPN2, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC etc. It should be simple to program - if ESPN is 846 in your area, just press and hold the ESPN button while entering 846 and let go.

I can't believe this doesn't exist - or maybe another commenter will tell me where I can buy it.
 
 
Jan 28, 2013
"I'm imagining a device that is larger than a phone but smaller than the smallest iPad." -Scott

They are being called phablets and they are gaining in popularity in Europe. You have to remember that when it comes to cell phone tech, the US usually gets it *after* Europe and Asia. That's one of the few places we are backwards in technology.
 
 
Jan 28, 2013
This article should invalidate quite a few not-yet-filed patents.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 28, 2013
Apple have been selling this, since about 2007. Not in every detail, but broadly. iPod touch plus Apple TV. Covers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 15, 16 and 17. Doesn't address your ideas about commercials, because there are no commercials.

It's bizarre to see the idea of cloud-stored video content delivered on-demand being proposed as a new idea when it's the way I've been doing things for a decade. I'm hardly bleeding edge with this stuff.
 
 
+19 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 28, 2013
18. When I walk into the room and say, "Where is the G-- damn remote?", it should start beeping loudly.
 
 
Jan 28, 2013
6: FTFY: "Get a question [about the commercial] right and the commercial is skipped FOREVER." I'd watch the commercials and take flippin' notes if it afforded me the opportunity to miss the next 724 instances of Eddie Money and his travel agency.

2,3,4,5,9,16: This reads a lot like Wii U functionality. Never mind Apple, here's a splendid way to get Nintendo back in the groove.


 
 
Jan 28, 2013
Not sure why this would be any better than just watching Netflix on a tablet. All the content you can swallow in any room of the house and no need to buy a TV, never mind a remote.

All that other stuff sounds cool, but way past the point of diminishing returns.
 
 
Jan 28, 2013
You mean your strategy of buying stock in companies you hate HASNT made money for you overall? What went wrong?

You said some years ago you were buying Apple stock. Isn't Apple that stock still worth more than when you bought it?
 
 
Jan 28, 2013
The most compelling thing I get out of this post is the separation of the screen and the delivery mechanism. This is something I've been looking forward to for a while now, for someone to wise up and build a television that was just a monitor -- no tuner, no channel buttons, not even speakers. Who uses any of these things now? I just want the television to be a screen. Imagine how much cheaper it would be.

Everything else sounds like something I already have, or almost have. The whole in-the-cloud part is a red herring; why do I care where the data is stored? The rest is just an example of technologies that don't work together well enough, or legal hurdles over content. You don't need to get rid of the set-top box, you just need to pair it with a better remote. There's nothing wrong with the way search works now; it's just the data entry that is so painful.

Besides, there is an existing system that is already pretty close to the backend portion of this -- the XBox Live service. A lot of what you looking for you can do with a Surface machine: select video, "throw" it to the TV or play it on the device, etc. What it is missing is the integration with regular TV. If I could get my set-top box's functionality into my XBox, I'd be a happy camper. There's no reason it can't do both other than the fact that two companies don't want to work together.

Of course, this will lead to the argument, which company are you willing to trust more, Microsoft or Apple? Flame retardant suits on, everyone.
 
 
Jan 28, 2013
Hi Scott - first, though your ideas are great, I don't see why they couldn't be adequately discharged by an app running on a tablet. We don't need more hardware gadgets, we need fewer (for example, my phone is now -also- my music player, that's a -good- thing).

But on to the bigger issue - we are headed towards video content distribution over the internet. Your next STB ('set top box' whether it is really a box, or a tablet app that communicates with your smart TV or cloud-based aggregator), won't distinguish between channels delivered over cable and channels streamed over your internet connection. They will all be in the program guide together and you won't care how you're getting it.

For this to work, I believe that sometime in the next few years, someone (TBS, HBO, etc) will start offering their content directly for a subscription fee, bypassing the cable companies, and the dam will break (slowly), and you will be able to signup just for the channels you want with internet delivery. You might take a real-time stream (commercials included) or a total commercial-free VOD model (for a higher fee) or something in-between.

The biggest thing preventing this is entrenched interests (the cable companies), but it's only a matter of time. Interestingly, it seems that the cable companies see this coming as they are buying more and more content-providers as a hedge against being reduced to common carriers.

So yes, the model, down the road, is you signup for the channel providers you like (just like you now subscribe to internet radio stations), and the delivery is over the internet.

As for bandwidth - once the cable companies stop delivering 500 channels to every home, they will have ample bandwidth to provide Gigibits of Internet. And who ever needed 500 channels anyway :-).

/j

and when can I get internet radio in my car?
 
 
Jan 28, 2013
Interesting idea on the day that RIM (Blackberry) just announced the following:
http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1320954--blackberry-10-rim-unveils-music-movie-and-tv-deals-for-new-system

Looks like RIM is halfway there.
 
 
Jan 28, 2013
What about sports events? That's a big issue that isn't addressed by this kind of system (which is pretty similar to the iPad with AirPlay & Apple TV combo you can already get now).

While this is a wonderful concept, the biggest challenge is sports/live events, and content contracts which locks up big shows to the networks for the next 20 years.

E.g. NFL football just renewed until like 2020 with NBC/CBS/FOX.
 
 
 
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