Intel, Yahoo to Build Internet into HDTVs

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At this week’s Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, Yahoo and Intel announced a new initiative aimed at building support for Web-enabled channels directly into high-definition televisions, so Internet-based content (and, no doubt, advertising) can run alongside television programming. The initiative, dubbed the “Widget Channel,” will offer a television application framework developers can use to deploy Internet-based applications designed to be viewed alongside television content. The whole thing will be powered by Yahoo’s Widget Engine, and run on Intel’s new C3100 chips, due in the first half of 2009, that are specifically aimed at consumer electronics devices.

“TV will fundamentally change how we talk about, imagine, and experience the Internet,” said the senior VP of Intel’s digital home group, Eric Kim, 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.”

Developers will be able to tap into HTML, Flash, XML, and JavaScript to create their applications, which will appear in a corner of the screen much like a picture-in-picture frame. The companies promise the Widget Channel will also feature a Widget Gallery that will enable developers to publish their Widgets to both Widget Channel-enabled televisions and other consumer electronics devices. Intel and Yahoo imagine widget that enable users to tap into existing Internet services like email, eBay, Yahoo Sports, and video rental services, as well as social networking services like Twitter that enable users to chat about programming or share their favorite content with friends and family.

Support for the Widget Channel include cable operator Comcast, which has said it plans to develop Widgets and integrate it with the Java-based tru2way technology that provides interactive communications with set-top boxes, such as Comcast’s program guide.

Of course, the prospect of interactive widgets on a television raises privacy and security concerns: advertisers will no doubt leap at the chance to profile user’s Widget activity as a way to deliver ever-more-targeted advertising to their television screens and mailboxes. Also Widgets themselves may be vulnerable to attack—potentially exposing users’ login credentials for services like eBay—and, depending on how well the Widget Channel is policed, it’s even possible malware or Trojan widgets could debut. Imagine a world where turning on Sesame Street in the morning displays a message like “This TV has been pwned!”…or Symantec starts marketing antivirus products for your television.

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