Designing the Remote Control

In “What Makes Apple, Apple,” another course that Mr. Nelson occasionally teaches, he showed a slide of the remote control for the Google TV, said an employee who took the class last year. The remote has 78 buttons. Then, the employee said, Mr. Nelson displayed a photo of the Apple TV remote, a thin piece of metal with just three buttons.

How did Apple’s designers decide on three buttons? They started out with an idea, Mr. Nelson explained, and debated until they had just what was needed — a button to play and pause a video, a button to select something to watch, and another to go to the main menu.

The Google TV remote serves as a counterexample; it had so many buttons, Mr. Nelson said, because the individual engineers and designers who worked on the project all got what they wanted. But, Apple’s designers concluded, only three were needed.

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