Hotels are a quite special playground. As a “normal consumer” you would look for technology which suits your needs, compare vendors, hopefully get educated by retailers, friends, internet research, buy the stuff and invest some time in your ideal, individual set up and to get used to it. Nothing of that happens when a guest stumbles in your hotel room.
Just to begin with, there is nothing like “the guest“. One generation ago there were more or less just two groups: those who watched TV and consumed pay per view and those who just watched TV. Today? On one day there are my parents in the room, struggling in a strange surrounding with an unfamiliar remote control, searching in a whole different channel listing than at home (most of them unknown) to find that rare german speaking channel they like (or at least know) to watch the news.
The next day you’ll have a young business traveler, already accustomed to catch up tv, video streaming, switching around the different options and functions with ease and maybe wowed by the video skype experience he had the first time via TV. Of course he is bringing his own content (as a fallback), maybe trying to connect via DLNA. Technology, and most important the Userinterface (UI) which is able to provide both groups (and everyone in between) a perfect experience is key. Conclusio: you have to have the “digital divide” in mind when thinking about the user interface, not just the techies out there.
Lets stay for a moment with the UI. More or less every important CE manufacturer + a few new market entrants try to define a unique UI + functionality because it offers a new kind of brand differentiation opportunity which they didn’t have before. At least until now, there is no common user experience as you may find it for example in iphones and android based smartphones. They look different but you still can take them and begin acting.
Or to put it in another way: there are lots of different designs of forks out there, but rarely one has to think about how to use them. Having my parents (and the boomer generation) in mind, it has to be dirt simple to use the TV with a standard remote control (better still with as few keys as possible) for watching TV and finding the preferred channel. With all those different approaches out there, I couldn’t say today which one I would trust to fulfill this requirement best (if any).
Some best practices to look at are much easier to define: ensure quick responsiveness, smooth and easy navigation, readability of menu items, avoid cluttered screens with far too many options. And make use of technology to simplify your guests life. Just to give you an example: let the system memorize the channel usage and provide them as favorites (or “recently watched”). Don’t forget, content may be king, but the Userinterface certainly is its throne!