I recently purchased a Harmony 880 universal remote. It’s one of those gadgets for those who have a lot of gadgets. The promise is that you can consolidate remotes for a lot of devices into one. In many ways, the remote is a model of good design:
- It feels well balanced in the hand
- When you pick it up, a tilt sensor automatically turns on a backlight to make it easy to see in the dark
- For most people and most devices, the Web based set up process should be relatively easy
The Harmony’s key flaw is that the code database – the instructions that tell the remote what commands to send – is controlled entirely by Logitech.
When I tried to set up my other new purchase, the Squeezebox 3, I got a very limited feature set for the music server. The selection of commands that the remote offered were most likely made by someone who had never seen a Squeezebox, much less lived with it and used it for a few weeks.
A couple of weeks later, I’ve been able to manually configure my remote with the key features of the Squeezebox. Yet this data is locked in my remote. There’s no way for me to export that data and post it for the world to use, despite the fact that the configuration is entirely Web-based.
So who cares? A Harmony 880 and Squeezebox 3 is serving a niche of a niche.
But that’s exactly the point. By leveraging the knowledge of A/V enthusiasts on the Web, Logitech could provide a much better experience to a lot of niches, like Philips does.
Before Logitech purchased Harmony you had the ability hack codes/controls into your Harmony remote on the website. This allowed you to make all the buttons work on your OEM remote. Now you are forced through the wizards which are great for simple set ups but impossible to use if you have anything out of the 80% norm.