Hackers have been attaching an IR emitter to various flavors of microcontroller to make universal remotes for years. Though I’m sure a few are nicely polished, I’d have to guess that most aren’t something you want to show off to (non-technical) guests.
Though non-technies still might not appreciate it the way you’d like them to, the zmote remote control device still looks like a great product. It does away with messy wiring and puts everything in a package resembling a light bulb. This “IR bulb” takes signals from your WiFi network, and translates them into the form of IR light that traditional appliances can understand.
Though it works with several apps, you can also control this little guy with a standard webpage, meaning that while your iPhone can control it, so can your laptop, Android tablet, or even Blackberry–perhaps even your Palm Pilot! Given this simple interface, you can use it in combination with other web applications to automate your house in ways you might not have thought of before!