Have you ever had to show someone how to switch the TV from the cable box to the DVD player? It’s a heart-wrenching reminder that for all of the electronic magic in our homes, nobody can make it easy to switch from watching TV to a movie. For some reason the remotes, cables and all those seemingly smart boxes under the TV are still really, really dumb. In the last ten years there have been two kinds of attempts to change this situation that has arisen. The first is the development of the “one box” model. This is the Boxee, Apple TV, HTPC, etc. that strive to replace all of the many single-function boxes currently connected to your television. They largely pull content from online sources and aim to provide enough new features, like social integration and timeshifting, that you don’t notice that they are missing your live local news or the Food Network. Because there is only one box providing content, there is only one remote control and a unified interface to learn. From my own observations, most people have this one box still in addition to some other sources. I really want to believe that this is the way things will go: just one box with one cable that runs to, or is integrated into, your TV. The second method is one that leaves all of the remotes and cables and user manuals that are under your TV and tries to simplify the cacophony. Peel is that kind of device. You’ll get better access to live content than a “one box”, especially sports and local content (although MLB and the NBA are offering live streaming to devices already), and you’re not throwing away the boxes that you already own. It also provides the control, social integration and ease of use that a single box might through it’s unique interface. One can only hope that this cause set-top box manufacturers to forgo the standard grid design for something new. The fact that Peel uses iOS devices instead of a dedicated remote is an almost obvious choice at this point. What’s been holding back Logitech for so long?
I love the design of the Peel Fruit, what they have named their WiFi-IR bridge. It’s something you’ll leave on the coffee table and people will ask about it, as opposed to the traditional tiny-black-box bridges or rat’s nest of IR cables that get tucked inside something. Other iOS-based universal remotes rely on some sort of IR transmitter that attaches to the device itself, and some are just an extension to a pricey multi-zone system. Peel assumes you won’t want to add any bulk to your iOS device that you carry around with you while, still providing enough power to control a single-room system.
I feel like Peel is more fully thought through in a way that other products in its category haven’t been, and it’s certainly an impressive demo video. It takes advantage of a connected remote device that some customers will already own. For people who have a few devices and are juggling remotes, Peel is a universal remote that is more fitting with the present time.