These two camps highlight something we have collectively forgotten in the technology world: the circumstances that led to the smartphone revolution ushered in by the iPhone.
Here’s a simple thought experiment. Imagine that the iPhone was never invented, and we were left with a progressively souped-up iPod Touch. Would we still be talking about a smartphone revolution? If so, we might be here talking about the Nokia 770’s offspring realizing the vision of the “Fantastic Four”.
No, without the addition of the cellular phone component, there would have been no smartphone revolution. At the end of the day, the addition of that core function was essential as was, of course, the addition of a camera and Web connectivity. The access to an ever-growing repository of apps and great design was also a key contributing factor.
That’s why experts such as video management software firm Kit Digital’s Global Lead Analyst Alan Wolk believe that, in order for a second screen to succeed, it must replace the remote control. Just like smartphones replaced the pocket occupancy of feature phones, second screen devices — be they smartphones, tablets or something that has yet to be unveiled — need to replace that piece of plastic already on your couch.
“The killer app for any second screen device is the ability to change the channel. Without that, it’s just a novelty,” said Wolk via e-mail, “But give users the ability to act on the information they get from the app and you’ve got a serious tool. For most users, social TV and other second screen content will be a lucky-strike extra, something they use on occasion. An app that lets them search for content and change the channel, however, will be something they’ll soon wonder how they ever lived without.”
This replacement technology will likely do more than change the channel. It will eventually take on all of your television remote’s functions. That feels like a tall order, because this new tool would need to drive a number of devices (e.g. a receiver, set top box, and TV) made by manufacturers who seem to only agree on support for infrared remotes at this point.
Meanwhile, the first screen continues to be firmly fixed in living rooms. Connected television devices such as Roku and Apple TV add engaging apps. Additionally Apple TV, via the AirPlay standard, is also able to stream audio and video from compatible devices such as the iPad (although Google is mounting a challenge to Apple in that space. More on that later.). That’s why it is not surprising some people think this is a clearer path to the future.