Comcast To Bring Web-Style 'Widgets' To TV With Intel

Comcast is teaming with Intel on a technology the companies said will let developers use Web application tools to quickly write interactive TV “widgets” that can serve up in Internet content and social networking features.

The Widget Channel framework, developed by Intel and Yahoo, provides a platform for the development and delivery of on-screen TV applications with content such as weather updates, news and games.

Intel and Yahoo previewed the Widget Channel framework Wednesday at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, touting the initiative as a way to “complement and enhance the traditional TV watching experience and bring content, information and community features available on the Internet within easy reach of the remote control.”

Described as an “open software development framework,” the Widget Channel will allow developers to use Internet tools and standards including HTML, XML, JavaScript, and Adobe Systems’ Flash technology to write applications that can run on TVs and other devices.

Comcast and Intel expect to begin integration testing of the Widget Channel framework in the first half of 2009 on Comcast’s interactive program guide using the CableLabs-developed tru2way technology for interactive cable applications. Comcast senior director of corporate communications Jenni Moyer said the companies have not announced commercial launch plans.

“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 chief technology officer Tony Werner said in a statement.

Intel has developed a system-on-a-chip for cable set-top boxes and other consumer electronics devices, the Media Processor CE 3100 (formerly code-named Canmore), which provides high-definition video decoding and viewing, home-theater-quality audio, 3-D graphics, and the ability to run Internet-based applications.

Comcast in June 2007 announced that it plans to bring Intel system-on-a-chip-based digital set-top boxes to market “in the next two years.”

Intel and Yahoo said TV Widgets could provide a number of different features, like letting viewers track their favorite stocks or sports teams, chat with friends or access current news. The TV Widgets can be personalized, the companies said, because they will be based upon popular Internet services such as Yahoo Finance and eBay.

ABI Research director Michael Wolf said the Widget Channel effort “could help jump-start the living room Web marketplace, one in which simple, easy-to-use consumer applications will be absolutely critical."

In addition to Comcast, Intel and Yahoo are working with a range of companies planning to develop and deploy TV Widgets, including Blockbuster, CBS Interactive, CinemaNow, Cinequest, Disney-ABC Television Group, eBay, GE, Group M, Joost, MTV, Samsung Electronics, Showtime Networks, Toshiba and Twitter.

"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 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."

Intel and Yahoo plan to make a development kit available to developers, including TV and other consumer-electronics device makers, advertisers and publishers. The Widget Channel also will include a gallery to let developers publish their TV Widgets across multiple TV and related devices and through which consumers can find widgets they would like to use.