The End of the Remote Control?

Microsoft exec predicts that with developing technology, 'it won't be long before you don't need a remote control to operate your TV.'

Multiscreen is essentially the new main screen.

That's the view of Microsoft's James A. Baldwin, who spoke Tuesday during the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers' annual Technical Conference and Expo at Hollywood & Highland.

"If I can't get the media I want on my iPad or TV in the home, I tend to frown on it now," Baldwin, the CTO of Microsoft Media Platforms Business, said during a keynote address about digital content distribution. "We have to start thinking about entertainment being delivered to many devices."

While consumers are already shifting away from traditional set-top boxes, Baldwin also predicted that with developing gestural interfaces, "it won't be long before you don't need a remote control to operate your TV."

He also argued there will be a blurring of the lines between games, social interaction and movies -- and a new level of interactivity.

"This is not about watching 'Friends' and wanting to buy Jennifer Aniston's sweater," Baldwin said. "It is about connecting with people. So you should get all the benefits of a connected device."

Baldwin, who included an overview of the Microsoft Mediaroom software platform for delivering content across all screens and devices, reported that Mediaroom would incorporate some functionality for 3D-capable TVs within the next year. Still, he said of 3DTV: "I think the technology is not really there yet."

During the confab, SMPTE also examined UltraViolet, a cloud-based digital rights management system that would essentially create an online virtual library for each consumer.

UltraViolet is being developed by Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, a consortium of more than 60 companies formed to develop a set of standards for the digital distribution of Hollywood content.

The system will essentially enable interoperability among registered devices while supporting both new and legacy devices and home libraries. Mitch Singer, DECE president and CTO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, emphasized that it is meant to complement and not replace packaged media such as Blu-ray.

DECE's members include Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. Disney and Apple have not joined.

But Singer said, "Apple is already adding third-party services; it is starting to open up. I think you can expect to see an UltraViolet app on the Apple platform.

However, Singer said, "iTunes is a little trickier. The market is in the early stages of growth."

Disney has been developing its own system called Keychest that has some similar functions to UltraViolet.

"The main, compelling reason for consumers to adopt UltraViolet is that it works everywhere," said Bob Lambert, president of Technology and Strategy Associates and a former Disney exec. "But that is not true at this point, because the Apple content -- iTunes -- doesn't work that way and Disney content doesn't work that way. Until they can resolve that issue, they have a bit of a conundrum in terms of how to position this to consumers."

In another keynote, Chris Carey, Paramount's executive vp worldwide technical operations, warned that Internet film piracy is rampant and urged action.

Carey asked the audience to write letters in support of proposed Senate Bill 3804: The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, which would allow the government to block illegal Internet sites.