Intel and Yahoo! to Launch "Widget Channel"

--Comcast Announces Plans to Integrate Widget Channel with its EPG

Intel and Yahoo! last month announced plans to launch the "Widget Channel," an application framework for TV and related consumer electronics devices that are based on the Intel Architecture. According to the companies, the Widget Channel will allow viewers to access Internet applications that have been designed for TV, while watching programming. It will be powered by the Yahoo! Widget Engine, a fifth-generation applications platform that will support a line-up of "TV Widgets"--small Internet applications that can be accessed by the remote control and that are intended to complement and enhance the TV viewing experience, by providing informational and entertainment content, and community features. The companies say that the Widget Channel will also allow developers to use Javascript, XML, HTML and Adobe Flash technology to create their own TV applications, thus "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! says it will provide consumers with Yahoo!-branded TV Widgets that will be based on the various services it offers on the Internet.

Intel and Yahoo! say that the Widget Channel's mini-apps will, among other things, enable consumers to access Internet videos, track stocks or sports teams, interact with their friends, access news reports, find out additional information about the programs they are watching, and share content with friends and family. The companies say that they will be easily personalizable, because they will be based on Internet services such as Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo! Sports, Blockbuster and eBay that are designed to be customized by end-users. "TV will fundamentally change how we talk about, imagine and experience the Internet," Eric Kim, general manager of Intel's Digital Home Group, said in a prepared statement. "No longer just a passive experience unless the viewer wants it that way, Intel and Yahoo! are proposing a way where the TV and Internet are as interactive, and seamless, as possible. 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." Added Marco Boerries, EVP of Yahoo!'s Connected Life arm: "On the PC and mobile devices, Yahoo! is a leading starting point for millions of consumers around the world. Yahoo! aims to extend this leadership to the emerging world of Internet-connected TV, which we call the 'Cinematic Internet.' 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. Yahoo! plans to enable the Cinematic Internet ecosystem, which will benefit consumers, device makers, advertisers and publishers."

According to Intel and Yahoo!, the Widget Channel will be powered by a set of platform technologies that include, in addition to the Yahoo! Widget Engine, core libraries designed to exploit the capabilities of the Intel Architecture. The Widget Channel framework will use a number of established Internet technologies to significantly lower the barrier-to-entry for developing applications optimized for the TV, the companies say. In order to spur development of widgets for the Widget Channel, Intel and Yahoo! plan to make a development kit available to manufacturers of TV and other CE devices, as well as to advertisers and content providers. The Widget Channel will also include a Widget Gallery, the companies say, to which developers will be able to publish their TV Widgets across multiple TV and related CE devices, and through which consumers will be able to browse and choose the widgets they would like to use.

The companies say that a number of partners are planning to develop and deploy TV Widgets, including Blockbuster, CBS Interactive, CinemaNow, Cinequest, Comcast (see below), Disney-ABC Television Group, eBay, GE, Group M, Joost, MTV, Samsung Electronics, Schematic, Showtime, Toshiba and Twitter. In addition, the companies say they are working with "industry members" to promote the development of open standards that would help grow the TV Widget ecosystem: as part of these efforts, they are sharing an early version of a development kit for the Widget Channel with a "selected" group of developers.

The Widget Channel software framework is designed to run on Internet-connected TV's, cable set-top boxes, optical media players and other consumer electronics devices that are powered by a newly launched family of system-on-a-chip (SoC) media processors based on the Intel Architecture. The first of these Intel Architecture-based SoC's is the Intel Media Processor CE 3100, which is billed by the company as a highly integrated chip that includes a high-performance Intel Architecture core and other functional I/O blocks to enable HD video decode and viewing, home-theater-quality audio, 3D graphics and the fusion of the Internet and TV experiences. Intel says it plans to release an Intel Media Processor CE 3100-based hardware development system, called the "Innovation Platform," which will provide the initial development and validation environment for developers of widgets for the Widget Channel.

Comcast, the US's largest cable MSO, announced last month that it is working with Intel to bring IP-based applications to TV, using the new Widget Channel application framework. The companies say that they expect to begin integration testing of the Widget Channel framework in the first half of 2009 on Comcast's EPG, using tru2way/OCAP technology. "The Widget Channel enables interactive applications and tru2way technology has opened the door for these types of innovations to work in the cable industry," Comcast Cable CTO, Tony Werner, said in a prepared statement. "We're looking forward to working with Intel as we continue to bring our customers new features and services that further enhance their viewing experiences." Comcast is billing its plans to implement the Widget Channel on tru2way as an "important milestone in the evolution of the tru2way ecosystem," and says that the Widget Channel framework will complement tru2way technology and broaden the interactive TV developer community. (Note: for more on the Widget Channel, see article in this issue, and listen to [itvt]'s radio interview with Patrick Barry, VP of connected TV at Yahoo!'s Connected Life division, in Issue 7.99.)