Why Web widgets will invade your TV
Web widgets bring Internet perks to the biggest screen in most people’s homes.
The Internet revolution may finally be televised.Skip to next paragraph
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Innocuous little software applications, popularly known as “widgets,” may turn out to be the back door to your TV screen that Internet companies have been waiting for.
For more than a decade, businesses have been trying to make the Internet available on the largest screen in most homes. In 1996, Time Warner offered WebTV, which failed to find an audience and folded. Even today, projects like Hewlett Packard’s MediaSmart (2006) and Apple TV (2007) have yet to win over large numbers of viewers, hampered by complicated setups or limited programming choices.
Widgets promise to bring the perks of the Internet to TV screens, using a familiar remote control instead of a computer mouse.
All indications are that widgets are going to “move very quickly to a great many of the TVs being sold in the next few years – if not all of them,” says Kurt Scherf, vice president and principal analyst at Parks Associates, a market research firm in Dallas that specializes in emerging consumer technologies.
What’s changed? Unlike a decade ago, most households now have broadband Internet service, meaning people already have the ability to stream high-quality Internet data, including video, to their computers. In many cases, these broadband connections are provided by the same company that pipes cable television into homes.
At the same time, more and more consumers are becoming familiar with downloading and using “apps,” or widgets, on their cellphones or laptops. Apple’s iPhone alone offers thousands of apps that add useful or fun functions to that mobile phone.
TV widgets – small, useful programs and icons that appear along the bottom or side of a television screen – perform similar functions. They might give information about news, weather, sports, or stocks – or link to popular social-networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, or the photo-sharing website Flickr.
TV manufacturers seem bullish on the idea. Sony, Samsung, and LG already offer TV sets capable of displaying widgets and linking to the Internet. Vizio, a low-cost HDTV brand, will follow shortly, and set a new standard by offering a small pullout keyboard inside its remote. Vizio will also build in Wi-Fi capability, meaning no wiring will be needed to connect the TV to the Internet.
About 400,000 TVs sold in the US this year will be Web-enabled. But by 2013, about 13.8 million TV sets in US households will be Web-enabled, says a study from Parks Associates.