I’m getting a case of deja vu. Apparently, 2009 will be the year that Internet ‘widgets’ come to the TV.
At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to be held in Las Vegas next month, Samsung, Toshiba and other manufacturers will unveil new televisions that bring Internet content into the living room through support for the “Widget Channel”, a platform for Internet-connected TVs developed in partnership by Yahoo and Intel (see ‘Yahoo, Intel attempt to solve Web content on television with “Widget Channel”). Of course, Internet-connected TVs were also the talk of CES in 2008, with Sharp, Samsung, Panasonic and Google making announcements. This time, however, Yahoo and Intel think they’ve got it right.
Based, in part, on research by Intel that involved the use of the company’s top anthropologist, the “Widget Channel” is a response to what the two companies think consumers actually want, rather than technology for technology’s sake. With the push of a button, Internet ‘widgets’ appear along the bottom of the TV screen giving access to a range of online content such as photos from Flickr or videos from YouTube, the latest weather forecast, or perhaps TV show information from Wikipedia.
More importantly, Yahoo and Intel think it knows what consumers don’t want from an Internet-connected television (via CNET):
- Another remote control, specifically one with a keyboard.
- Something that intrudes on watching TV. Instead, consumers wanted “a big button to make the software go away in one fell swoop–no menus or arrow keys or complication–so they could get back to watching TV when they wanted.”
- A full-on Web browser. Nobody wants to surf the web on the TV – in the traditional sense – but they do want access to online content on the television, such as updates from their social network or real time information.
I’m unsurprised by the resistance to a ‘full-on Web browser’, just look at the failure of products such as the original WebTV. It’s also interesting but not all that surprising that Yahoo and Intel found that consumers don’t want to have to have to use a, presumably QWERTY, keyboard in addition to the TV remote. While this alone will make data entry more fiddly, the “Widget Channel” could employ a hybrid model whereby TV ‘widgets’ are configured on a PC using a web browser to then be accessed via the TV using a standard remote.
The “Widget Channel” is powered by software based on Yahoo’s acquisition of Konfabulator in 2005 (the technology behind Yahoo Widgets) and a new chip from Intel. Yahoo sees advertising opportunities on Internet-connected TVs, while Intel hopes it will provide the company with a further foray into non-PC consumer electronics.