Widgets: the future of internet on TV?

Intel and Yahoo!’s push to bring the internet to the television goes against both the current trend to bring TV programming to the internet and the historical resistance of viewers towards accessing internet-type applications on their TVs.

The companies announced on August 20 a deal to create the “Widget Channel”, a TV application framework which will see computer-type applications sit alongside regular channels in a picture-in-picture effect, offering the viewer applications of their choice. So while watching TV, viewers can also instant message friends, check email or keep up with sports scores or news headlines.

Intel is developing chips including Widget TV as well as high-definition reception for use in consumer electronics. The chips are due to be available in the first half of 2009. US cable operator Comcast seems to be the first client for the new chips, planning to offer Widgets for both televisions and set-top boxes.

Yahoo is bringing its Yahoo Widget Engine to the table to power the Widget Channel and will also provide Yahoo!-branded TV Widgets such as its email service and other of its internet services, presumably including its photo library site Flickr. Widgets will be customisable.

What is important is that the applications will not remove the viewer from the programme, which has been the problem in the past with some internet-on-TV and interactive TV offerings. A statement from the companies said: “Viewers will be able to use TV Widgets to deepen their enjoyment of the programming they are watching, discover new content and services, or share their favorites with friends and family.”

Eric Kim, general manager of Intel’s Digital Home Group, said: "TV will fundamentally change how we talk about, imagine and experience the Internet… Our close work has produced an exciting application framework upon which the industry can collaborate, innovate and differentiate. This effort is one of what we believe will be many exciting new ways to bring the Internet to the TV, and it really shows the potential of what consumers can look forward to."

Marco Boerries, executive vice president, Connected Life, Yahoo! Inc., said: "By partnering with leaders like Intel, we plan to combine the Internet benefits of open user choice, community, and personalization with the performance and scale embodied in the Intel Architecture to transform traditional TV into something bigger, better and more exciting than ever before. By using the popular Yahoo! Widget Engine to power the Widget Channel, we intend to provide an opportunity for all developers and publishers to create new experiences that can reach millions of TV viewers globally.”