With TV App, Dijit Hopes to Ride Out the Coming Apple Revolution in TV
I have a lot of Apple gear, and I’m pretty happy with it. There’s just one problem. The better Apple’s stuff gets, the less patience I have for everyone else’s clunky hardware and software. Televisions and all the boxes we hook up to them are the worst offenders. No two TV manufacturers or set-top-box makers use the same remote controls or user-interface conventions, and they’re all painfully bad (except those developed for the hockey-puck-like Apple TV, which are decent but not great). That’s why I’m hoping that Apple will eventually follow through on Steve Jobs’ dying wish, in biographer Walter Isaacson’s words, “to do for television sets what he had done for computers, music players, and phones: make them simple and elegant.”
While we await that glorious day, though, there are some existing technologies that can help ease the pain. In fact, there’s no lack of innovation in the area of video entertainment, as the acres devoted to new “digital home” technologies at this week’s International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas attested. The problem is a lack of unification—meaning interfaces that would make it just as easy to find, buy, watch, and share great cable content on your TV as it is to find, purchase, consume, and share great book, magazine, or game content on your iPad.
For the last few months I’ve been following a TV technology startup called Dijit Media that’s both innovating and making an attempt at unification. They know Apple is coming, and that the Cupertinoids—unless they’ve completely lost their touch in the post-Jobs era—are likely to create a product that melds beautiful TV hardware, a slick and simple operating system, and a rich content marketplace. Meanwhile, the San Francisco-based firm has built its own universal TV remote for iOS devices, and is using it to foster a new “second screen” culture.
The Dijit app, which controls your TV with help from a Griffin Technology gadget called the Beacon, marries channel listings from your cable operator with diverse Internet resources like Facebook, YouTube, and Netflix. It turns your iPhone or iPad into a kind of social command center for the living room—a place where you can browse listings, find out what your friends are watching, or rearrange your Netflix queue, all while sitting back in front of your big screen. It works with hundreds of models of TVs, DVRs, and set-top boxes, replacing the welter of remote controls and on-screen interfaces that come with those devices and moving all of the control and choice to the smaller but far more versatile touchscreen.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t yet fully integrate with Internet-TV boxes like the Apple TV and the Roku Player—and I’ll have more to say on that in a minute. But Dijit figures that the more progress it can make toward unification before Apple enters the market in earnest, the more Apple’s competitors will need to seek the startup out. “We think sooner or later Apple will come in, and it won’t be a ‘hobby,’ and it will show what’s really coming,” says Jeremy Toeman, Dijit’s chief product officer. “The Samsungs and Vizios of the world will need external technology to bridge the gap, and the only way to bridge it will be to go cross-platform. We think we can help the consumer electronics manufacturers adapt to a world where they are not as proficient at building the end-to-end ecosystem as Apple is.”
Dijit, originally known as UMEE, was founded in 2009 by former Nvidia and Riverbed Technology engineer Maksim Ioffe. It won funding in late 2010 from technology investor Alsop Louie, backer of streaming-video startup Justin.TV and mobile iOS game developer Smith & Tinker. The startup switched to its current name at CES in January 2011, which is also when it released the iPhone version of the remote-control app and announced its partnership with Griffin.
The $70 Beacon device, which is available at Apple Stores, bridges the communications gap between … Next Page »