For better or worse, I've been a loyal user of Yahoo! for a lot of my basic web services - email, photos (through Flickr) and RSS feeds (through My Yahoo!). Some people say that it's almost as passee as having an AOL account, and while there are times in the past that I've agreed with those folks, I'm here to tell you that I haven't been prouder to be a Yahoo! user than I am right now. And the reason for that is their newly launched Connected TV initiative, which made quite a splash earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
As you'll quickly see, Connected TV is representative of the first real steps towards bringing a full Internet experience to a television set. Yahoo! is choosing to do this by integrating a now-common web product called "widgets" into the on-screen experience, all with just the touch of a button. Through the Yahoo! TV Widgets, users will be able to access an endless library of web services from not only Yahoo! but also from other services like Twitter, CBS, eBay, Netflix and the New York Times. For those of you interested, here is a video demo of the TV Widgets in action.
What I like about what Yahoo! is doing here is that they are creating a very simple and intuitive way to introduce the consumer public to the idea of having access to the Internet through a television using existing hardware -- basically the TV itself and the remote that comes with it. There are no additional set-top boxes to purchase, no keyboard to use and the user is in control of customizing the way the widgets are presented on the screen relative to the TV program that's on the screen.
The main drawback of the Yahoo! offering is that it's probably not something that you can add to your existing TV set. Having said that, there's no reason why your cable/satellite provider couldn't offer something similar through their service. My provider (Verizon FiOS) already has a widget offering in its menu, but it's pretty weak compared to what Yahoo! is offering, so hopefully they'll get their act together . . . and soon!
And for those of you that want a deeper dive on the subject of Internet on your TV and see what today's industry leaders are saying about the promise of tomorrow, a good place to start is this January New York Times article which covered the topic in the context of the CES show.
It really is a brave new world!