Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Not-so-universal remotes

Here we go again. The consumer electronics industry has just gotten to the point where there is a wide range of universal remote controls available to supervise all your gear no matter who made it. But with the rise of digital, high def products the technology is about to take a new twist.

The folks behind the High Definition Multimedia Interface laid out a scheme called HDMI-CEC. The standard lets each consumer company establish a baseline of interoperability with each other’s digital high def remote control products with room left over to add on any proprietary bits if they wanted to put a few special features in their devices.

And sure enough that’s just what they have done—in spades. Consumer giants embraced HDMI-CEC in a big way at CES, each with their own spin on the spec so the devices would work best when you bought all your TVs, DVDs and other products from their brand. Thus Panasonic’s version of HDMI-CEC is VieraLink, LG’s is SimpLink, Samsung’s is AnyNet and so on. The net result is that if you really want to get a rich feature set you have to buy all Panasonic or LG or Samsung gear—a vendor wet dream that rarely happens in the real world.

I fail to understand why consumer companies did not adopt the Universal Plug and Play Forum’s standard for device discovery and control. It might require a little more software and a slightly stronger micro to run it, but it would enable anyone’s remote to talk fluently with anyone’s device. This is what users really want—not the all Sony or Philips home.

There’s still time to change—in the next generation. In fact the PC folks over at DisplayPort realized having a broadband back channel on their display interface would be a better alternative to the 100 Kbit/second HDMI-CEC link. They are now crafting an option that could mirror the 480 Mbits/s of USB 2.0.

So imagine, say five years from now, your Hewlett-Packard Universal remote might be able to use UPnP to automatically discover over wireless USB a Sony Blu-Ray player, an LG HDTV—maybe even an AppleTV box if Cupertino learns to cooperate--and automatically figure out how you can control them all. Ah, let’s hope all these children learn to play together nicely.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps Due To "Universal Plug and Play" is another Intel "Not Really So Open Standard"?

TheRiddler said...

"Let’s hope all these children learn to play together nicely." lol
Hi, the NevoSL and the Philips RC9800i are already UPnP compliant. I hope this helps!