Web widgets could transform TV

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As the traditional television broadcast model struggles to live up to its looming digital-only deadline, TV manufacturers are blazing forward at a pace that threatens to leave cable companies and broadcast outlets in the dust.

We've already discussed Netflix streaming movies directly to TVs. Now even more players are entering the TV convergence playing field.

Yahoo's web widgets for TVs – small Internet-connected applications such as weather and news feeds – have been on the horizon since last August. But details have only surfaced recently. PC Mag reports that Samsung has struck a deal with Intel and Yahoo to embed the technology in select TVs. The service, branded as "Internet@TV," will use ethernet connections to deliver content from Flickr, Yahoo news and finance, USA Today, YouTube, eBay, Showtime, and others.

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TV maker Vizio will go a step further with wi-fi connected TVs. Gizmodo reports that the new sets can connect to Amazon, Blockbuster, Netflix video-on-demand, Pandora radio, Hulu videos, and the full line of Yahoo widgets.

Toshiba is also on-board for the Yahoo web widgets. As Information Week reports, the electronicsmaker is also rolling out a TV that incorporates the Cell processor – the same hardware behind Sony's powerhouse PlayStation 3 gaming console. Reuters says the technology enables the TV to display ultra-high definition video, and is capable of showing 48 separate moving pictures on one screen. Talk about picture-in-picture!

Place-shifted, time-shifted TV

Another cool TV-related development out of the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week is a Dish Network digital video recorder (DVR) with built-in Slingbox technology. Slingbox, previously only available as a set-top add-on, allows users to watch content from their living room TVs while away from home. Dish's DVR-integration would allow people to access their entire video library from office desktops, laptops on the road, even iPhones and BlackBerrys, Reuters points out.

While these innovations may not appear in electronics stores until late 2009, the announcements signal a further blurring of the line between TVs and computers, and provides further evidence that television as we know it is dramatically changing.

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