Just a few years ago, a number of audio/video vendors were following the lead of the Philips Pronto remote and selling nearly buttonless universal LCD remotes or packaging them with receivers. Many were getting into the game: Onkyo, Denon, Harman Kardon, Marantz and others. These devices were not only universal remotes, but offered features such as infrared and radio frequency (RF) communication, rechargeable batteries, PC compatibility for downloading updates and IR codes and LCD screens and graphical user interfaces (GUIs) that eliminated many of the buttons found on conventional remotes. This was the future of the remote—it seemed.
Not long after their introductions, many of these remote models were discontinued. Manufacturers found that they added too many dollars to SKUs in an already very competitive market, and consumers were not taking to them. Many were very large and not very ergonomic, and the all-LCD interface made some simple functions more complicated, because the user had to flip through “pages” to get to the correct virtual button. The universal LCD remote left almost as quickly as it arrived.
The responsibility for designing universal remotes now has shifted to companies more experienced in selling accessories, and many are marrying the old button format with smaller LCD displays and RF technologies to create remotes that are more ergonomic and, hopefully, user friendly, while connecting even more devices found in the digital home. But unlike the LCD remotes of before, which were mostly one-model-for all, remote control manufacturers are creating tiered levels, with remotes aimed at the off-the-shelf market and others at the custom market.