"Remote" Control Takes on a New Meaning

Philips' latest touch-screen remote control, the RC9800i, is part of the company's Connected Planet concept that aims to provide easy access to and control of digital entertainment from home entertainment components, the PC, and the Internet. In addition to controlling legacy and networked audio/video devices, the RC9800i includes built-in Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) connectivity that can be used for accessing PC multimedia files as well as Internet content.

Designed to become "the centerpiece of the home entertainment experience", the RC9800i works as the main control center for Philips' wireless family of products. Included with the remote control is Philips' Digital Media Manager PC software that organizes multimedia content allowing movies, music, or photos stored on the PC to be viewed on the RC9800i's screen. Users can either preview pictures and audio on the remote control itself, or the files can be played back through any UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) devices in the user's system. Philips, not surprisingly, points out that their SL50i, SL300i, or SL400i Streamium devices (as well as others) are perfect complements to the RC9800i.

Using your wireless home network's connection to the Internet, the remote can download TV guide updates automatically as well as new feature upgrades that may be issued in the future. The same network makes it possible for the RC9800i to access your PC's content.

During the initial installation, an intelligent setup wizard prompts the user to tell the remote what equipment is to be controlled and how it is interconnected in the system. The RC9800i can then create its own macros for turning on devices and selecting the right inputs. Philips' Activity-Based Control system combines the most frequently used functions into "activities", such as watching DVDs or listening to CDs. After setup, buttons displayed on the RC9800i's touch screen will launch "smart macros" that replace multiple button presses with one single press for each desired activity.

In addition to its Wi-Fi capabilities, the RC9800i includes an extensive infrared code database. Philips states that the new remote can recognize "more than 600 brands of consumer electronics devices" and can control both legacy and networked audio/video devices. A side-mounted USB connection can be used for adding new codes as well as other updates. The remote also includes a charging cradle for recharging the unit's battery.

The RC9800i is expected to be available by April with $599 MSRP.