The Second Screen Will Soon Control the Living Room

Mobile devices are destined to take over as the remote controls of the future, as a bevy of mobile apps are being introduced to help users quickly find and view the content they want to watch. The trend indicates not just a frustration with the current state of navigation and search on legacy programming guides, but increasing use of so-called second screen devices while watching TV.

The latest indication of this trend came as Google (s goog) announced a new remote app for its Google TV interface that will work on Android devices. The app, which will become available Wednesday on the Android market, will allow users to control their program guides, access their DVRs and send content from the mobile device directly to the TV. Google even provided a demo video to show off all the new features:


The new Google TV Android app isn’t the first remote control built for a mobile device. In fact, it’s not even the first mobile app built for controlling Google TV devices. Logitech, (s LOGI) which makes the Google TV-powered Revue set-top box, introduced its Harmony remote control app in October. But it is part of a growing trend toward mobile devices for TV navigation.

Frustrated with the traditional “grid” guides for displaying programming lineups and video available on their TVs, consumers are seeking new ways to search and discover content. But today’s standard remote controls typically aren’t smart enough for much more than up-down-left-right browsing and navigation. While companies like Logitech have been trying for years to solve the problem with ever-more sophisticated universal remotes, many are either too big or too complicated for the average user. One need only look at the remote control for Sony (s SNE) devices running Google TV to realize there’s a real problem with remote control design for next-generation connected devices.

Tapping into the so-called second screen for navigation is intuitive, not just because today’s generation of mobile phones is smart and fast enough to conduct search, or because touchscreen keyboards provide a perfect input device for the task, but because today’s TV viewers are using them in the living room anyway. A growing number of users are increasingly accessing the web, texting with friends or chatting on the phone while watching TV today, so extending navigation to those devices just makes sense.

It’s not just technology companies and device manufacturers picking up on the trend, either. Pay TV distributors — many of which are typically slow to adopt new technology when it becomes available — have jumped at the opportunity to bring navigation to second-screen devices. Comcast, (s CMCSA) Time Warner Cable, (s TWC) AT&T, (s T) Dish Network, (s DISH) Verizon (s VZ) and others have all launched or announced new applications for the iPad, iPhone (s aapl) or Android devices as a way to browse and search their linear and on-demand TV content.

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