By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, March 25, 2009 at 12:25 am
[UPDATE: I credited Walt Mossberg with the column I mention below–wrong! The column’s called The Mossberg Solution, but it’s by Katherine Boehret. Corrected, and sorry about that.]
Walt Mossberg Katherine Boehret of the Wall Street Journal has reviewed Samsung’s LED TV 7000, the first set that supports the Yahoo Widget Engine platform for Internet-enabled applications that run right on the TV. Walt Katherine is impressed with Yahoo’s system, which is based on the cool Konfabulator, the application that started the whole widget craze a few years ago. I was impressed, too, when I visited Yahoo and got to try out the Widget Engine on a Samsung TV a few weeks ago. (Unfortunately, the Samsung set wasn’t ready for review in time for an article I recently wrote for PC World on ways to bring Internet TV into the living room, although I did squeeze in a mention.)
The Widget Engine is slick–the applets I tried reminded me of iPhone apps that happened to live on a TV rather than a phone. And the best thing about it is that it’s open: Anyone who wants to can build applications for it, and any application that anyone builds is available on any TV that supports the platform. That’s a far cry from most previous approaches to putting the Web and Web services such as Internet video onto TVs, most of which have been highly proprietary. (Panasonic’s Viera Cast is conceptually similar to what Yahoo is doing, but it’ll only deliver the services that Panasonic signs up–which means, so far, YouTube and a couple of others, with Amazon Video on Demand on the way.)
I’m not going to have a Widget-enabled TV in my living room any time soon, unfortunately–I don’t need a new TV, and Samsung’s set, at $3,000, isn’t an impulse item. But Yahoo has signed up not only Samsung but also Sony, LG, and Vizio to make Widget-ready sets. Those four companies are responsible for a sizable percentage of the TVs sold in this country, so chances are good that Yahoo’s software will be showing up on plenty of sets. If developers are as enthusiastic about the platform as electronics manufacturers are, the Widget Engine could end up being reason in itself to be tempted by a new TV.