Thursday, August 21, 2008

Widgets for Television: Can Yahoo and Intel Control the Architecture?

One of the holy grails of Web 2.0 is about the integration of television and Internet. The reason is obvious: the currency for monetizing Web 2.0 is advertising and major players are jockeying to be part of the shifts underway in the advertising business network. Microsoft's interest in Yahoo is part of this broader transformation underway.
Intel and Yahoo announced a new business relationship focused on creating the Widget Channel. It is a "TV application framework optimized for TV and related consumer electronics devices that uses the Intel architecture."

Why is this development interesting?
The Widget Channel will allow consumers to enjoy rich Internet applications designed for the TV while watching their favorite TV programs. The Widget Channel will be powered by the Yahoo! Widget Engine, a fifth-generation applications platform that will enable TV watchers to interact with and enjoy a rich set of “TV Widgets,” or small Internet applications designed to complement and enhance the traditional TV watching experience and bring content, information and community features available on the Internet within easy reach of the remote control. The Widget Channel will also allow developers to use JAVASCRIPT, XML, HTML and Adobe® Flash® technology to write TV applications for the platform, extending the power and compatibility of PC application developer programs to TV and related CE devices. In addition to supporting the Yahoo! Widget Engine, Yahoo! will also provide consumers Yahoo!-branded TV Widgets that are customized based on its category-leading Internet services.

It can allow for the creation of new formats and new models for TV viewing.
Underlying the Widget Channel will be a powerful set of platform technologies, including the Yahoo! Widget Engine and core libraries that expose the powerful functions enabled by the Intel Architecture. The Widget Channel framework will use established Internet technologies to dramatically lower the barrier of entry for developing applications optimized for TV. To help create new TV Widgets for the Widget Channel, Intel and Yahoo! plan to make a development kit available to developers, including TV and other CE device makers, advertisers and publishers. The Widget Channel will also include a Widget Gallery, to which 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.

Intel and Yahoo! are working with a range of industry-leading companies that are planning on developing and deploying TV Widgets, including Blockbuster*, CBS Interactive*, CinemaNow*, Cinequest*, Comcast*, Disney-ABC Television Group*, eBay*, GE*, Group M*, Joost*, MTV*, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.*, Schematic*, Showtime*, Toshiba* and Twitter*. These and other companies and individuals will be able to innovate, differentiate and deploy TV Widgets across multiple TV and related CE devices using the Widget Channel framework.
Here's a good overview video on the Next-Generation TV Experience.

The other attempts at integrating Internet and Television seem to be mor closed and proprietary--different from the business logic of Web 2.0.

For example, as Walt Mossberg reviewed in WSJ, Sony Bravia
"adapter is the Bravia Internet Video Link. This is a $300 module that attaches to certain Sony HDTV models. It can either be set up beside the TV or snapped onto the back of the set. Once it's connected to your TV and to your home network for Internet access, a new menu appears on the TV allowing you a choice of videos from numerous online sources, including YouTube, Yahoo, Blip. TV, Sports Illustrated, AOL, Wired, and the Web sites of CBS, Showtime and more.
But more important is that it does not work on non-Sony TV sets. Do we need another proprietary format from Sony?
Mossberg also reviewed the Netflix player by Roku.
The Netflix Player by Roku is much simpler. In fact, it was the simplest set-top box I have ever tested. It costs just $100 and does just one thing: It allows Netflix subscribers to view its movies and TV shows via the Internet on a television set instead of on a computer. It can't get you any other video content from the Internet.

Again, closed connections in an era where the consumers clamor for openness.
Apple's iPhpne 3G App Store is leading the way to create a broader network of applications from third-party developers. What Intel and Yahoo are trying to do is create a compelling Widget Channel for integrating TV and Internet. Will that succeed? It's too early to say but we will surely see lot more initiatives to influence the way we access, consume and share rich multi-media content.
Yahoo and Intel may have launched this as a way to establish their technical architecture. There will be other competing architectures and the shape of the business system will evolve, morph and shape over time.

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