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Comcast, Intel, Yahoo connect on tru2way widgets

Thu, 08/21/2008 - 8:30am
Mike Robuck and Brian Santo

Comcast is working with Intel on bringing “widget” applications to interactive program guides (IPGs) via cable’s tru2way technology.

Comcast, Intel and Yahoo are together working on the Widget Channel, which brings IP-based applications to TVs. The Widget Channel framework’s graphical user interface (UI) will let consumers click an onscreen widget to access and view a variety of Internet-based applications or content – such as weather updates, news, games and other interactive applications – on their TVs. 

“The Widget Channel enables interactive applications, and tru2way technology has opened the door for these types of innovations to work in the cable industry,” said Tony Werner, CTO of Comcast Cable. “We’re looking forward to working with Intel as we continue to bring our customers new features and services that further enhance their viewing experiences.”

Comcast and Intel are slated to start integration testing of the Widget Framework in the first half of next year. The tru2way JAVA APIs will work in both set-top boxes and tru2way-enabled retail TVs that are being developed by Panasonic and Samsung, according to a Comcast spokeswoman.

Comcast’s IPG and other applications on a set-top box will run on top of tru2way, while the widgets would be written into the Intel software.

For developers, content providers and broadcasters, tru2way, which was formerly known as the OpenCable Application Platform or OCAP, holds the promise of “write once, deploy everywhere,” as opposed to writing for various proprietary platforms.

Comcast and Intel both touted the widget application as an example of a tru2way application that they expect will help broaden developers’ interest in creating more applications, as well as enhance the TV viewing experience.

Roughly 60 percent of Comcast’s networks will be ETV-enabled by the end of the year, and it will have tru2way network capability in 98 percent of its network by the close of next year. Comcast expects 15 percent of its total devices to be two-way by the end of next year, while 50 percent will be JAVA-capable by the end of next year.

Comcast, the United State’s largest cable operator, is working on a three-pronged approach for interactivity that includes EBIF and ETV applications that can run on legacy set-top boxes and can be ported into OCAP boxes down the road; OnRamp, which uses a subset of JAVA APIs that OCAP is based upon and was used to deploy Comcast’s TiVo service; and full OCAP deployments.

Since it’s an OCAP application, the Widget Channel will need to run on higher-end set-top boxes, which Comcast has defined in its real next-generation (RNG) set-top initiative, which includes OCAP as a core component. Comcast has previously purchased RNG-200 set-top boxes, which have more memory, from Panasonic.

Comcast’s spokeswoman said it was too early to speculate about the possible pricing models for the Widget Channel.

In June of last year, Intel Corp. and CableLabs announced that the two companies signed an OpenCable Platform Agreement and would include support for the OpenCable Platform in future Intel consumer electronics (CE) system-on-a-chip (SoC) products (story here).

Yahoo’s contribution to the Widget Channel will be its Yahoo Widget Engine, a fifth-generation applications platform that will enable TV watchers to interact with and enjoy a rich set of TV Widgets – small Internet applications designed to complement and enhance the traditional TV.

Yahoo will of course be creating its own TV Widgets that link with its own services, but the Widget Channel will allow developers to use JavaScript, XML, HTML and Adobe Flash technology to write TV applications for the platform.

Others planning on developing and deploying TV Widgets include Blockbuster, CBS Interactive, CinemaNow, Cinequest, Disney-ABC Television Group, eBay, GE, Group M, Joost, MTV, Samsung Electronics, Schematic, Showtime, Toshiba and Twitter.

More Broadband Direct:

• Comcast, Intel, Yahoo connect on tru2way widgets

• Move, Intel prep Internet TV devices for WiMAX

• AT&T forms its own geek squad

• AT&T aims broadband offer at students, cable subs

• Hillcrest Labs takes legal action against Nintendo

• AmberFin names Deaner as CEO

• Broadband Briefs for 8/21/08

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