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Apple, Google, and Amazon’s quest for one remote control is futile

April 7, 2014
April 7, 2014

If the cable and satellite live television providers were to comment on the latest Amazon Fire TV or reports of the new Google Android and Apple TVs, it would likely be in the voice and character of Charlton Heston:

We will give up our remotes when they are pried from our cold dead hands.

Amazon’s Fire TV and the rumored Google Android and Apple TVs excite and then disappoint. At first glance, it looks like cable and satellite television are about to be outflanked and the eternal struggle with the TV remote and set-top box will be solved with an intuitive interface to search both live television and archival content from streamed online video companies such as Netflix.

Sadly, it isn’t so.

None of these new internet TV products can solve this problem. Consumers are doomed to eternal oppression by multiple clumsy television remotes and awkward on-screen menus to find, select, and watch live television separately.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a company like Amazon built a single user interface to all online video and live television that let you simply search for all television programming like searching for anything else on the internet and with just a click watch what you wanted? But the cable and satellite companies that provide live television have made sure this won’t happen, because putting Amazon in the forefront would make live television providers’ brands less relevant. Amazon would then also have a wedge to pry its way into the live television ecosystem.

The live television providers buy all the set-top boxes sold. They have the clout to make sure that set-top box manufacturers like Cisco and Motorola haven’t left a backdoor for an innovative company to build an uncomplicated and easy-to-use app for integrating the set-top box and all online streamed video using a smartphone or tablet app.

Until something changes, there won’t be one television app to rule them all and streamed online video and live television will remain unnecessarily separate and complicated. The coffee table basket holding the TV manufacturer’s remote, the set-top box remote, the sound system remote, the Apple TV remote, the Amazon Fire remote, and on and on isn’t going away. Neither are those hour-long telephone calls with your parents to diagnose and fix the remotes when they get out of sync.

Follow Steven on Twitter @Stevep2007. We welcome your comments at ideas@qz.com.

 

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