Comcast Offers Widgets


Comcast is teaming with Intel on yet another attempt to build a bridge connecting the Internet and TV.

The operator plans to integrate interactive TV technology, dubbed the Widget Channel framework, being developed by Intel and Yahoo into cable set-tops. The technology, previewed last week at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, is supposed to let developers use Web application tools to quickly write interactive TV “widgets” that can serve up Internet social networking features and content such as weather updates, news and games.

“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,” Eric Kim, general manager of Intel's Digital Home Group, said in announcing the program.

The companies described the Widget Channel as an “open software development framework,” allowing 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.

However, the project is still in the early stages, and follows more than a decade of similar attempts to bring Internet-style interactivity to TV services.

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, 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.”

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.

But great partners alone “won't cut the mustard,” noted telecom industry blogger Cynthia Brumfield.

“Just ask Microsoft — its interactive TV platforms do what the Widget Channel does and much more and the software giant has had dozens of blue-chip partners over the years, all to no avail,” she wrote in a posting.

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 TVs and related devices and through which consumers can find widgets they would like to use.