Internet and TV: a marriage that never works
Column: Intel and Yahoo are the latest to try to merge the two media. Why past efforts have failed.
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But reports from this year’s show, which ended Sunday, indicated there was little under the tree to get excited about. As one report I heard said, no one is talking about 150-inch plasma TVs. The focus was much more on what people can realistically afford in today’s bad economy.
One idea that generated a lot of buzz was Web-enabled TV. Last August, Intel and Yahoo announced “The Widget Channel.” The feature will let you use “widgets” to access Internet services, such as stock quotes and news feeds, on your home television.
To do this, however, you must own an Internet-enabled TV. So at CES, Yahoo announced that it would work with TV manufacturers, such as Toshiba and Samsung, to build sets that can access the Widget Channel. The idea was also pushed by one of the Widget Channel’s partners, MySpace, which wants to move aggressively into the TV “space.”
Well, I’m sorry, but I’ll believe it when I see it. The idea of watching the Internet on TV is like cold fusion. People will tell you that it’s a great idea and will revolutionize society as we know it. But no one has been able to do it, regardless of how many times they’ve tried.
Industry experts keep saying that in the battle for the interactive future, the TV will come out on top. Yet desktop computers, laptops, and mobile devices seem to be consistently winning the battle for eyeballs.
This idea of putting the Internet on TV has been around for a while. I went back into the Monitor archives and found several articles about how the marriage of the TV and the Internet was inevitable.
For example, Monitor writer Laurent Belsie wrote in 1996 that “in the next few years, someone is going to marry the action of television with the data of the Internet in such a compelling way that consumers will flock to see it. A new medium will be born.”
The first idea was WebTV, a box that cost about $300, with a monthly subscription fee of $20. It was not intertwined with TV programming. It basically was a way to access the Web. In 1997, Microsoft bought it for about $450 million, and it went nowhere. Ultimately, its biggest market was seniors, who found it easier to read than a computer screen.