NEW YORK-Yahoo is betting big on its Yahoo Connected TV platform, and the company is looking for developers to help advance the platform.
At the Yahoo Open Hack Day event here, Russ Schafer, senior director of product marketing for Yahoo's Connected TV and Desktop group, said Yahoo is "combining the best of broadcast TV with the best of the Internet."
Yahoo is doing this through TV Widgets-compact Internet applications that deliver the best of the Web to a user's TV.
"TV Widgets will drive adoption," Schafer said. And Yahoo is fostering a TV Widget ecosystem. The Yahoo TV Widgets are supported on TVs from Samsung, Sony, LG and Vizio. By the end of 2009, Schafer said he expects there to be at least 100 TV Widgets available, and more than 1,000 by the end of 2010.
To help promote the development of more TV Widgets and applications, Yahoo held a programming contest where the winner took home an HDTV, and second and third prizes were generous gift certificates from Best Buy.
Schafer said Yahoo's TV Widgets are powered by the Yahoo Widget Engine, a fifth-generation applications platform evolved from the popular Konfabulator widget platform for the PC. The engine has been re-engineered specifically for consumer electronics devices. The Yahoo Widget Engine also provides an entry-level framework for running TV Widgets on the constrained hardware capabilities of today's integrated digital TVs. The Widget Development Kit (WDK) is now available to developers, CE manufacturers, advertisers and content publishers on a limited basis, providing the tools needed to create TV Widget experiences.
Schafer said developers can extend their brand, services and content to a mass market of new users by creating TV Widgets. TV Widgets enable popular Internet services and online media to reach viewers with applications specifically tailored to the needs of TV enthusiasts. The integrated Internet experience, powered by the Yahoo Widget Engine, will be available in a variety of consumer electronics products, including television sets from the four manufacturers listed earlier.
Users can view movies, video clips, news updates, photos, messages and more with TV Widgets. And users can go to the Yahoo Widget Gallery and choose from a growing list of TV Widgets-soon to include Yahoo properties such as News, Weather, Sports, Video and Flickr, as well as popular providers like The New York Times, eBay, CBS and Showtime.
The TV Widgets experience starts with a user dock. The TV Widget Dock enables users to select all their favorite TV Widgets, and connect to popular Internet services and online media, while watching their favorite shows. Every member of a household can create a profile of their personal selection of TV Widgets. And users can have up to eight profiles per TV, Schafer said.
Jeremy Johnstone, a member of the Yahoo Connected TV team, demonstrated the developer platform using the WDK. He noted that Yahoo provides a simulator environment that enables developers to simulate the TV on their PC. It runs on Ubuntu Linux, he said.
Schafer said Yahoo's goal is to take its connected TV story "outside the TV as 2010 comes along" to things such as set-top boxes and other devices that have "hard drives and storage space."