I've previously reviewed a couple of relatively inexpensive products to turn your iPhone into a universal remote. The RedEye and POWER A remotes are pretty cool, but the one thing that always sunk it for me was the lack of hard buttons. Plus, I'm always on the lookout for a decent contender on the iPad. [Note that we covered Savant Systems' iOS and Mac mini solutions for automation and AV several months back. –Ed.]
Crestron, maker of high-end AV and automation solutions for home and office/presentation use, has a solution for both: the iPanel, which surrounds the iPad in a hardware dock with buttons for key functions. At US$500, it's not something I'm going to be running out to buy, but the option is there.
Obviously, at $500 it should do more than change the volume on your TV, and it does. Lighting, music, media centers ... all the usual Crestron fun stuff. It's also cheaper to turn your iPad into a touchscreen Crestron remote than it is to buy an actual touchscreen Crestron remote. The 13 hardware buttons also function without the iPad connected, so you're not up a creek if your iPad is off charging and you need to change the channel or dim the lights.
The iPanel will be shown at the CEDIA Expo 2010.