NET EFFECT: Dazzled by remote control Windows

NET EFFECT: Dazzled by remote control Windows

Don't look now, but I think the IT industry has developed a passion for remote controls. And I'm a little nervous. Until recently, we've been obsessed with wireless keyboards, mice, and even high-tech input devices like Tablet PCs. Remote controls were largely the province of consumer electronics (CE) - the stack of small black plastic on your coffee table at home is enough for me to rest my case.

But now we IT types have seen the (infrared) light. As we stumble headlong into the world of IT and CE digital convergence, the good news is we've realised that our computer keyboards just don't cut it anymore. They are not couch-friendly.

For example, I think there's a good reason why Internet TV didn't take off. Who wants to sit on the lounge at home with just a keyboard on your lap? Not me, that's for sure.

Microsoft got my attention when it showed off the Windows XP Media Centre Edition at ARN and Ingram Micro's Whitebox Goes Home event in Sydney on September 2.

Microsoft's group manager, OEM, resellers and distribution, Tim Schroder, strolled from the lectern to the opposite side of the stage and sat down. Sure enough, he was clutching a remote control.

Schroder then proceeded to click his way through the menu options, turning on some music, starting a video, and even stopping to rotate a picture mid-way through a slideshow.

On one hand it's cool to see Windows via remote control. On the other hand, it was about as exciting as watching somebody TV channel surf - it just works, and that is the way it should be.

Then outside the keynote audit­orium at the sponsor's demo stands I had a quick chat with the guys from MSI. They were showing off an entertainment and gaming device that ostensibly looks like a small sound system.

This product will run Media Centre Edition after its launch in October, and is one of many intriguing devices available now that combine traditional audio/visual functions with a PC's innards in one box.

What really caught my eye was - you guessed it - the remote control.

But here's the problem: this thing has 49 buttons (yes, I counted). That has to be at least double the average button count on the TV remote at home.

Now, I'm the kind of guy who actually revels in the challenge of programming a VCR. But I'm not the Joe Average consumer we are all hoping will buy these digital devices in spades.

Joe Average looks at 49 buttons, sighs, and then attempts to figures out if there is some way he can get away with using just four of them. And if this entire process of button elimination takes more than 10 seconds it's all over.

So while Microsoft, MSI, and countless other vendors gleefully discover the joy of adding yet another remote to my collection, I offer this piece of advice: we're not trying to impress geeks with this stuff. Consumers like it real simple.

Yes, it's a novelty to see Windows on the big flat screen TV. Just keep your other eye on what's really in the hand of the beholder.

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