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January 08, 2009

Yahoo Stirs Excitement with Widgets on IPTVs

Yahoo! Inc., a company that’s made more headlines in the past year for failing to be bought by Microsoft than for innovation, reportedly is making technology news this week as it capitalizes on what researchers call a robust IPTV (News - Alert) market, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.
As TMCnet reported, the Internet company already made a splash at the International Consumer Electronics Show by joining Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. in an effort to power flat-panel HDTVs with Yahoo’s so-called “Widget Engine,” a platform that helps watchers interact with their sets.

Now, according to the AFP – a venerable news service that’s based in France – Sony, LG Electronics, Toshiba, Samsung and Vizio also are rolling out flat-panel TV models embedded with the widget software, offering links to popular Web sites.
According to Yahoo spokesman Lucas Mast, the company has built 20 widgets to link television viewers to Internet destinations such as YouTube, Twitter, eBay, MySpace (News - Alert), Amazon, CBS, and The New York Times. Mast told the AFP that he expects that number to grow to 50 by June.
“We’ve been cooking this up in the lab for three or four years,” Mast reportedly said.
Here’s what a widget-enabled TV looks like (imagine scrolling through Amazon while watching Mark Teixeira, the newest member of baseball’s most successful and storied team, the New York Yankees, blast a three-run home run in the Bronx Bombers’ majestic new ballpark):
The Yahoo collaborations could bring more variety to a market that’s poised to take off, researchers say, but which needs greater variety.
As TMCnet reported, one prominent IT industry research firm recently called for a more aggressive marketing approach to capitalize on an increasingly popular IP-based television market in the Asia-Pacific region.
Officials at Frost & Sullivan (News - Alert) say service providers must do more than simply market IPTV services as another part of their so-called “n-play” offerings.
According to Adeel Najam, a research analyst with the firm, telecom companies won’t attract cable and satellite TV subscribers unless they offer more content. Operators with broadband speeds of 10 megabits per second must offer IPTV to optimize their bandwidth capacity.
And yet, the research firm reported, “Due to slow progress of digital TV in China, the IPTV industry can develop with fairly wide window of opportunity. In the next three to five years, we predict that IPTV will face intense competition.”
With the widget-enhanced TV services, users can track their stock portfolio and stay on top of headline news, but they may also browse through videos, share photos and interact with friends on their TVs. Users often can access the service by connecting the HDTV to a home network via the built-in Ethernet port or using an optional WiFi (News - Alert) USB port.
Interestingly, Yahoo developed its widget technology with Intel Corporation, the world’s largest maker of computer chips.
William Leszinske Jr., general manager of Intel’s (News - Alert) Digital Home Group, reportedly told the AFP that his company thinks bringing MySpace to the TV will transform the way people think about social networking and provide a seamless experience for users to enjoy MySpace while watching TV.
“This effort is aimed at enhancing today’s traditional TV watching with complementary widgets that will bring rich Web content to the TV through Internet-connected consumer electronics devices,” Leszinske reportedly said.

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Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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