How will Apple fix the remote?
So with the announcement of the Fire TV and WWDC I got thinking about Apple TV again. The remote really is the biggest question for me. The current use of a direction pad (which Fire TV uses as well) is the biggest frustration of Apple TV usage for me. Yes, more content, apps, games, better hardware and other things will definitely come too. But I am tired of click, click, clicking through menus. I've done a few Apple hardware concepts here before and have been working on a new Apple TV UI concept revolving around a gesture based controller with an embedded white only OLED screen that only shows the needed controls. I chose this because using a phone as a remote sucks. With a remote you want to pick it up make a selection and put it down. With a phone you pick it up, wake it up, find the remote app, connect to the right device and then interact. It's useful occasionally but the remote should be a singular device with one function that anyone watching can pick up and use. Multifunction devices like tablets or phones will always be worse then that. A standalone simple touchscreen is a pretty good solution but I think it could be better. It also would add expense to the device and I believe for the basic bundled remote Apple wants something simple and cheap.
But today I had another thought, but let me first go down the path I took to get there. We are fundamentally talking about a non-touchscreen media consumption device, right? We can't have direct manipulation so the interface must be pretty simple. We will be mainly scrolling through content and selecting what to play. Complex things like games and other apps that require direct manipulation would be better served by a game controller or touchscreen device then a simple remote. So what works better then direction buttons for scrolling though content but doesn't need a touchscreen? Has this problem been solved before? Hopefully you've just had the same realization I did. Apple has already solved this problem. Simply cut the screen off the iPod, paste it on your wall (stretch to desired size) and what are you left with? The Click Wheel. It's been universally praised as the answer to this problem and attempts to do better have failed until multitouch came along. For a simple, cheap hardware only remote, I don't think they could do better.
Now, I'm not saying the remote we will see will look strictly like the bottom half of an iPod but the basic interaction will be the same I'm sure. Maybe it will have a mic for doing voice search but that will be secondary (and probably not on the first version). Touch works great when you are actually manipulating the controls on screen but remove that directness and most of that benefit is gone. I think this would be great, a simple remote that I don't need to worry about breaking or losing because of it's cost, but much, much better then any current TV remote.