Yahoo, Intel bring widgets to TV

08 Sep 2008

Bringing the internet to the television has been a concept that has been trumpeted for nearly ten years but without much success. Despite early failed efforts and little consumer adoption, enthusiasm for interactive TV has been reignited with the announcement of Yahoo and Intel to jointly bring web-style interactive applications to TV sets.

The two companies plan to launch the Widget Channel, a television application framework optimized for TV and related consumer electronic devices, such as set-top boxes that use the Intel architecture.

Hoping to make the service easily accessible to developers, Intel and Yahoo also unveil a development kit to developers, including TV and other CE device makers, advertisers and publishers.

The Widget Channel will also include a Widget Gallery, where developers can publish their TV Widgets across multiple TV and related CE devices and through which consumers can view and select the TV Widgets they would like to use. Yahoo also plans to integrate the new offering with its other web services, allowing users to view Flickr feeds while watching TV, for example.

Intel and Yahoo are working with more than a dozen other companies to build and eventually deliver such widgets, including Blockbuster, Comcast, the Disney-ABC Television Group and MTV.

ABI research director Michael Wolf said the project shows that the two companies are looking to extend an approach for accessing web services that has been successful in the PC and mobile domains, and he believes this effort 'could help jump-start the living room web marketplace, one in which simple, easy-to-use consumer applications will be absolutely critical.'

Darryl Nelson, senior research manager of digital media for Asia Pacific at Frost & Sullivan, argued that the partnership is unlikely to make any significant impact on the industry.

For one, he said, the announcement has come to the market too late because the shift of TV content to the internet is progressing faster than the shift of internet applications to TVs.

'The convergence of internet and TV is kind of a given, but it's happening on the PC not on the TV set,' he said.

While the deal may provide some first-mover advantages for Yahoo, whether it would put the internet portal in a good position in interactive TV games against rivals like Google remains unclear.

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