today announced an initiative to bring the Internet to your TV set through what it has dubbed the 'Widget Channel.' While many a company has tried to bring the Internet to the living room (and mostly failed in the process), Yahoo is taking a slightly different approach by not trying to bring a full browser experience to the TV, but by creating a platform for widget developers.At Intel's Developer Forum, Yahoo
Comcast is also joining in the effort and will start testing the Widget Channel framework in the first half of 2009.
By just focusing mostly on relatively simple widgets for now, Yahoo is at least partly sidestepping one of the major issues with bringing the Internet onto a TV set: navigation. As long as you only want to bring up some widgets on your screen, a simple remote control will do. However, as a typical usage scenario, Yahoo expects its users to want to browse to a friend's Flickr photos while watching a TV show - at that point, trying to find a set of photos on Flickr might just a bit more than your standard remote can handle.
Yahoo might be planting a Trojan horse in every living room here by creating a demand for Internet enabled TVs - but the real problems for interactive TV have never really been technical. Most users simply aren't interested in interacting with their TVs beyond flipping channels. The Widget Channel might just be simple enough for more folks to start using it and it might precipitate a cultural shift in how we look at our TVs, but so far, every other similar initiative has failed because of a lack of demand.
If you would like to see the slides that accompanied the IDF presentation, you can find them here (PDF). We will also provide a link to the video of the presentation once it becomes available.