My Alarm Is iRinging
The latest reports about an iTV better be a bad joke, or else it could all end up being a good skit on late night comedy shows. That's because of the focus on an iRing remote control, something that could end up lost inside a couch -- if not eaten by the family dog. A smaller, iPad-like screen bundled with a 60-inch iTV, however, could fly since it builds on the idea of extending the television experience -- a potentially good idea for Apple.
04/11/13 5:00 AM PT
Let's get this straight right now: Using an "iRing'" to control an Apple iTV is dumb. Mind-numbingly dumb.
However, there's a seemingly realistic rumor about it, stemming from analyst Brian White at Topeka Capital Markets who apparently learned of the potential motion-based controller after a tour of Apple's supply chain in China.
It's bad enough that your non-Apple enthusiast friends laugh at you when you say they can take their iPhone or iPad into an Apple Store and have a "Genius" look at it. Imagine them watching you use your One Ring of Power to change channels or crank up the volume.
Now imagine guys half-baked on their living room couches in Washington and Colorado -- where marijuana use has been decriminalized -- using the iRing.
Apple products are supposed to be cool, with designs that make you want to touch them, hold them, and use them. An iRing is the opposite of cool. I bet the writers at SNL have already written up a half-dozen skits on it already, which probably include jokes about utility belts and holsters for smartphones.
Aside from the idiotic geekiness of an iRing, the practical issues for most of America make it hard for me to imagine anyone at Apple thinking it was a good idea. Which remote in my household is the most irritating remote? The svelte aluminum Apple TV remote. Why? It's forever getting lost. It's so small it slips into all sorts of couch cushions, hides underneath pillows, magazines, and generally blends into its environment.
My Dish Network remote, on the other hand, is a big monstrosity that rarely gets lost, and everyone knows how to use it.
While an iRing is unlikely to get lost while on my finger, how do you share it? Does everyone in your entire household have to have one? How about visiting grandparents? The iRing should come with a kit that includes a magnet and a pair of scissors for locating and extracting the iRing from inside the bowels of your couch.
I could go on railing against an iRing, but it's not worth it. I can barely bring myself to imagine that such a product would actually ever leave the prototype stage in Jony Ive's secret design lair in Cupertino. I just hope that the iRing is part of an elaborate sting operation set up by Apple to catch corporate leakers.
A Ring By Any Other Name
Of course, the "ring" idea doesn't have to be literal. A method for controlling your iTV HDTV could be based on a metaphorical ring, or even a virtual circle (or button) navigation method. It could even be a code name for one remote that rules them all.
It's possible that if an iWatch ever comes to fruition, it could be used to control -- or even extend -- an iTV, along with iPods, iPads and iPhones. I'm ok with that. While an iWatch could become cool or stupid, it's far more likely to be useful.
Still, Brian White seems to have sparked another rumor that actually makes sense: An iTV would ship as a 60-inch HDTV screen, but it could come bundled with a "mini iTV" -- a small, portable screen that could display television content. It could be similar to an iPad without all the cost and brains built into it. I like this idea. A lot. Why? It makes sense!
For March Madness, upcoming NBA playoffs, the Super Bowl, breaking news and so on, I've often wanted to be able to have a portable second screen. I could take it into the garage or the kitchen. There are ways to do this now using iPads and iPhones, but they require additional hardware and services. Apple could make it all easy and seamless.
What's far more interesting than an iRing or an iWatch controlling your iTV is the idea that any Apple device could control it. What would stop Apple from letting an iPhone become a gesture-based controller? You wouldn't have to have an iWatch. You wouldn't have to look at the iPhone and tap and swipe to navigate an iTV screen, but you could.
Maybe Navigation Isn't the Critical Factor
Thanks to the Steve Jobs quote from his official biography that says he "cracked" the user interface, I think all of us Apple watchers get hung up on the navigation problem.
I'm starting to think (and hope) that perhaps an iTV will truly extend itself beyond the living room. A 60-inch HDTV with a pretty interface will be nice, no doubt, but that's still just an incremental improvement upon a very common form factor.
To take the world by storm, I hope Apple is thinking about turning the iTV into a true household hub.