Smartphones and tablets have endlessly customizable interfaces, but sadly we're usually stuck at the mercy of remote controls that have no awareness of context when we watch TV. It looks like Dish is trying to change that — the company has just opened up the APIs for its Hopper commercial-skipping DVR platform to "select" mobile app developers. Essentially, this means that some third-party app devs will be able to built controls for the Hopper right into their apps, something Dish is hoping will make the rapidly-proliferating "second screen" app trend more useful for its customers. Imagine you're an MLB junky, flipping between different games and keeping up with stats using the official MLB app — that process could get a lot easier if you were able to control your TV without even having to leave the app, to say nothing of having to pick up the old remote.
Dish's first partner is Thuuz Sports, an app for Android and iOS; it alerts users to sporting events they might want to tune into using some real-time analytics and "social monitoring." With the new Hopper integration, users will be able to jump right to the games Thuuz alerts users to, and they can also record live or future events with a single tap. It's not quite the context-aware, helpful, and completely integrated remote experience that we're all looking for, but it's a step in that direction. While Dish isn't completely opening up its APIs — potential developers will be vetted based on their ability to keep customer data private, among other considerations — we're hoping that the third-party app community can start making more useful second-screen apps before long. We're also hoping that more cable companies and set-top box makers follow Dish's lead.