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Netflix CEO: Wii controller, browser make for fab Web TV

Netflix CEO says televisions equipped with Wii-like pointers and Web browsers key to future of Internet video.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings tells conference attendees the time is right for Web TV comeback Greg Sandoval/CNET Networks

SAN FRANCISCO--Let's try combining the Web and TV sets one more time, says Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.

Hastings told an audience Thursday at the NewTeeVee Live conference that TV sets are key to the future of Internet video and all next-generation sets should come equipped with Wii-like controllers, browsers, video codecs, and some serious processing power.

"The real breakthrough will be in remote controls," Hastings said. "The video game generation is comfortable with pointers (like the one from Nintendo's Wii video game) for the TV. Remember, it was a revolutionary event when we went from PC to the Mac and let go of tab keys in favor of the mouse. It was incredibly radical. What will be a similar transition is when we abandon the remote with 54 buttons and go to a simple pointer."

The Wiimote controller is fully motion sensitive so it provides a lot of freedom of movement and motion and allows users to engage an application with hand gestures.

Web-enabled TV sets are needed to help Web-video services, such as Netflix, Apple, Hulu, and YouTube, as well as a host of electronics manufacturers, make it to the promise land for Internet video: people's living rooms. Study after study shows that people prefer to watch video on big-screen TVs rather than on PCs. Internet video won't be able to compete with broadcast, cable or pay-TV providers until they make it the so-called last 10 feet from an Internet connection to the TV set.

But Hastings idea wasn't universally popular at the conference. Some attendees sitting near me groaned when Hastings called for a Web TV comeback. Hastings appeared to anticipate the response. "Putting the Web on TV has a bad rap," Hastings said. "The idea was tried and it failed 10 years ago."

But those were the days when TV could supply only standard definition, clunky dial-up connections, and user interfaces that only allowed people to move cursors up and down, left and right, Hastings said. We now have high definition, broadband connections, and better user-interfaces.

MG Siegler over at VentureBeat wrote that navigating a device like Apple TV is difficult with a traditional remote. AppleInsider reported recently that Apple has recently filed for two new patents regarding remotes.