Apple Reportedly to Intro Remote Control Services for Homes

NEWS ANALYSIS: Apple, according to a report, will use its WWDC to unveil a software platform that turns the iPhone into a remote for the home.

Apple Could Launch into Remote Control Services

Apple, at its Worldwide Developer Conference June 2, is expected to introduce a software platform that will turn its iPhone into a remote control for the home.

The Financial Times reported the news May 26, adding that sources call the planned software a "big play" in the world of smart home technology and in Apple's plans to beat out Google and Samsung.

Google moved into living rooms last July with the introduction of Chromecast, a dongle-based streaming-television solution, and then deeper into homes with its $3.2 billion purchase of Nest Labs, maker of the Nest smart thermostat, in January. It's now rumored to be considering buying Dropcam, a company that makes a WiFi-connected camera that records and streams to the cloud.

Samsung, which for years has offered Smart TVs and a TV-specific app store, in January introduced Smart Home, a service that enables users to control their appliances (washing machines, refrigerators, etc.), smart TVs, smartphones and wearable devices through a single, integrated platform. A Device Control feature within Smart Home also allows consumers to use their smart TV or smartphone to control their lighting or air conditioning while they're in their homes or traveling.

Apple hasn't introduced a new product category since the iPad in 2010. For years now, there have been rumors of a coming Apple "iTV"—which reportedly would be accompanied by a planned "iRing," which would act as a controller, and an iWatch that could be used as a home controller, eliminating the need to carry a smartphone around the house, analyst Brian White, then with investment firm Topeka Capital, said in a April 2013 report.

As hope, or patience, around these expected devices wanes, rumors—with a basis in recent Apple hires—have shifted to the health care vertical and talk of a smartwatch or fitness band and even an entire health and fitness-related platform with its own app store and potentially FDA approval.

All of it—or however much of it proves true—will put Apple more deeply into the realm of the Internet of things (IoT), the fast-growing web of connected and communicating devices and machines. Beyond its devices, Apple has also moved into this space with its CarPlay offering for connected vehicles.

Still, being enmeshed with others isn't the way Apple likes to operate. Far from a character flaw, it's Apple's modus operandi and what has made the iPhone and iPad great, said Roger Kay, principal analyst with Endpoint Technologies.

"Apple doesn't have first-mover advantage," Kay told eWEEK. "In the case of IoT, there's already an IoT—Nest, health bands, health care devices. The automobile companies are not giving away the car console to Apple. They'll let them play, but they're not giving it away."

Plus, in the IoT space, it's not just a matter of Apple's doing something more compellingly than Samsung or Google and winning over consumers, said Kay.

"By definition,” he explained, “the Internet of things is a lot of public infrastructure—taxi stands, train schedules. These things all have to agree to play together by some set of the same standards."