The major mistake made by most gadget reporters and future of technology speculators is drawing too close an analogy between smartphones and smart televisions. We’ve assumed that the next generation of televisions would have a silver-bullet user interface, as gesture-enabled touchscreens were for smartphones. And every time a new user interface comes along, whether it’s Microsoft’s Kinect or Apple’s Siri, we argue that it’s the future of television.
As a consequence, we’ve misunderstood television’s user interface problem. It’s not really about too many cables and too many remotes, as annoying as that can be. It’s really about having the right kind of user interface for the task at hand.
That means pluralism, not minimalism. It means that remote controls and game controllers, with all their ugly buttons, aren’t going away, because they’re actually quite good at what they do.
Instead, they’ll be connected to and complemented by specialized interface devices like cameras, microphones, and touchscreen smartphones and tablets. These will take over some functions, introduce new ones, or even duplicate functionality.
It’s not one ring to rule them all. It’s e pluribus unum.