New color Pronto:
Although I did not personally attend the CEDIA 2000 Expo held this past weekend, several "observers" who were there managed to escape with a few juicy details.
The new color remote control coming out next year from Philips will be known as the ProntoPro – a name familiar to readers of this forum thread. The new model, as shown at CEDIA in prototype form, will be physically larger than the current TS-1000 and TSU2000 form factor, with a new advanced design. As with the recently announced Pronto TSU2000 (see below for new information), it will be silver in color. The bottom of the remote will feature four buttons instead of the current two, while the side volume and channel buttons have been restyled into a toggle-shaped design that is much more ergonomic. It will include at least 4 megabytes of memory, although the PC communications port is still only scheduled as RS232 serial. Since transferring 4 megabytes of data through a serial port will probably take 10 to 15 minutes, I hope they strongly consider adding a USB option. The new color LCD screen will support a high 240x320 resolution (as does the current monochrome model) with 256 colors, although users will "only" be able to use a 216 color "web safe" palette.
Since the original Pronto’s CPU and display controller only supported a 2-bit color palette, the entire operating system has been rewritten for a new hardware architecture. As such, the time was right to change the user interface into a more intuitive and graphically pleasing design. However, early reports indicate that the user-editable portion of the screen may not be much larger than the current area of 240x219 pixels. Speed reports from the show floor indicate that the remote is quite fast when changing panels.
As on the new TSU2000, the ProntoPro will make use of a pre-programmed database of codes to help make first-time setup easier. The new model will also include a basestation and rechargeable NiMH battery by default; no option is provided for "standard" batteries. The battery life of the current prototype is rated at 2-3 weeks per charge. An RF feature is still in the planning stage and may not be incorporated, though some folks at Philips do feel it is an important addition. Finally, as a professional touch, the new color Pronto will use a pick-up motion sensor that – like the RTI TheaterTouch – will activate the screen whenever the remote’s physical position is changed.
Since the ProntoPro is slated for release in the first quarter of 2001, plenty of development time is still available. As such, the details contained in this update are subject to change.
Pronto TSU2000: Further to our news update of September 9th, the just-announced TSU2000 (and ProntoPro) will include a built-in code library from UEI with over 549 components. On the remote you will be able to select a brand and type of device and have the entire pre-programmed device pop up ready-to-use. However, in ProntoEdit you will have to assign codes one-by-one through the IRDB feature, each of which references the on-remote database. Although this sounds awkward, it does open a window to the possibility of selecting specific advanced codes – something a lot of users would appreciate. Since the code database is stored on-board, available user memory on the 2 megabyte model will decrease from 1304kb (as on the Marantz RC5000i) to 960kb. Due to the size of the database, it will not be possible to add it to existing 1mb models, nor will referencing the codes in ProntoEdit be of any use since they merely point to an on-board library.
One of Philips’ top priorities for the TSU2000 is to shape ProntoEdit into a more user-friendly application. One of the changes that has been mentioned as an example is putting the boxes for all four icon states on a single screen – no more tabbing around. The new v2.0 of ProntoEdit will be released this fall along with the TSU2000; I hope to take an early look at both products and, in the mean time, will keep you posted on ongoing developments.
[Talk about the Pronto & RC5000...]
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