CES: Yahoo, still connecting TV widgets [UPDATED]
Connected TVs are again one of the main stories at the Consumer Electronics Show, increasing the pace significantly from last year's gingerly steps. Yet one of the stars of the 2009 show, Yahoo's Connected TV initiative, has been outshone by the likes of Vudu and DivX.
But Yahoo executives insist they haven't lost momentum. This morning, the company announced several new Connected TV partners -- Chinese consumer-electronics manufacturer Hisense, display maker ViewSonic and chip makers MIPS Technologies and Sigma Designs -- and an expanded relationship with Vizio. These deals and coming deployments in Blu-ray players and set-top boxes will give Yahoo's Connected TV a firm foothold in the consumer-electronics industry, spokesman Cory Pforzheimer said.
Pforzheimer also said the four major partners Yahoo announced last year -- Sony, Samsung, LG and Vizio -- will put Connected TV widgets on more models in 2010. Also expected is a significant expansion in the number of TV widgets, or applications that deliver audio, video and other content from the Web to the TV screen. (Examples include photos from Flickr, microblog posts from Twitter and online video from DailyMotion.) Yahoo has approved only about two dozen of the roughly 4,000 widgets that have been proposed, but Pforzheimer said the pace should accelerate significantly. That's because the company is making its software development kit for the widgets widely available for the first time. It's a significant step toward an open platform, although Yahoo and TV makers will still hold veto power over new widgets.
Still, Yahoo's platform seems to pose more of a challenge to TV makers and application developers than some of its rivals' approaches. Vudu, which announced its software platform Wednesday, already has more than 100 applications. David Naranjo, a marketing executive for Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America, was showing off Vudu Apps last night on one of his company's new sets. Naranjo said Vudu's primary focus has been entertainment, while Yahoo had looked at widgets much more broadly. He also said Vudu's software demanded less memory and processing power than Yahoo's. Mitsubishi plans to put Vudu Apps on all its 46-inch and 52-inch sets this year, up from two models that had the Vudu video-on-demand service last year.
Pforzheimer said Yahoo welcomes the arrival of more Internet-on-TV providers because it brings more attention to the category. "A rising tide," he said, "lifts all boats."
Updated, 10:04 a.m.: Brightcove just announced that it would support Yahoo's Connected TV platform, making it easier for its customers -- more than 900 media publishers -- to create widgets. The first wave of Brightcove users to do so include Time Inc., TheStreet.com, Wine Spectator, Slate, and The Hollywood Reporter.
-- Jon Healey