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The Mac's ‘ultimate remote control’ leaps forward

Salling Clicker arrives on Series 60

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Apple Computer loves Jonas Salling's Clicker software, and it's not hard to see why Cupertino values it so highly. Clicker won two of the company's Mac Design Awards last year - for most innovative product and best Mac OS X software - and it plays to several of Apple's strengths. The software, which fuses Bluetooth devices to the Mac, highlights the considerable advantages of Apple's Bluetooth wireless technologies, AppleScript and ease of use over the nearest Wintel equivalents. Microsoft has notoriously dragged its feet over Bluetooth support, and although it has a scripting engine (Windows Scripting Host) it doesn't match the elegance of AppleScript.

People think of Clicker as a Bluetooth remote control, but it's more accurate to describe it as a wireless scripting engine. One portion runs on the Mac, the other on a Bluetooth phone, or Bluetooth-equipped Palm and Clie PDAs. Scripts are published to the mobile device, allowing you to operate iTunes, or the DVD player from the other side of the room. Because it's proximity aware, Clicker can be programmed to increase the volume when you wander out to the john, for example.

The major news with release 2.1 is the addition of Series 60 support - bringing it to the most popular smartphone platform. (Nokia claims to have sold two million of its flagship 6600 alone, and ten million Symbian phones were shipped last year, most of which were Series 60). Clicker began life on the Sony Ericsson T68i and runs on the Sony Ericsson's non-Symbian Bluetooth phones too.

There's also a new licensing arrangement which doesn't penalize gadget-freaks with more than one device or who change their phone regularly. The new $19.95 entitles you to run it up to three Macs, and the bundle includes both UIQ, Series 60 and Palm OS clients.

"Phones tend to break more than computers," says Jonas. "in my case the license is not per phone but three computers and you can use it on as many phones as you want."

We beta-tested the version on our P900 and quickly reckoned it was indispensable. This version makes great use of device native controls, and - all too rare for P800/900 software, this - takes advantage of flip-closed mode. So in the main iTunes script, the turning the wheel changes the volume and back/forward actions take you to the previous and next tracks. You can browse and cue playlists, and the phone's display updates in real-time to give you the artist information and time remaining. Operations on the phone are displayed on the Mac.

The only drawback we encountered was the heavy power draw. As Jonas admits, nothing drains the power on a P900 like Clicker operating iTunes, although there are power-saving features and other phones such as the T630 are much more frugal.

Clicker is really bound only by the limitations of AppleScript and, it goes a very long way indeed. Business users who need to give PowerPoint or Keynote presentations will find it valuable too.

Salling admits he is examining a Windows version but doesn't see consider a version very likely. Clicker is a great reason to buy a phone with Bluetooth, and a great reason to buy a Mac. Let's hope they look after him. ®

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Salling Clicker

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