US telco Verizon opens up the ‘Widget Bazaar’ app store for its fibre-optic TV service, adding dollops of Web goodness to the biggest screen in the house.
App stores for mobile phones? That’s just so
yesterday. How about downloading apps which run not on the tiny 3.5 inch screen of your smartphone, but live large on the 42 inch widescreen telly hanging on your living room wall?
You’ve paid plenty for that panel, and it’s already a central feature of your living room, so you may as well get more out of it.
TV widgets have already been teased and touted by several companies, most notably the alliance between Intel and Yahoo to create a ‘Widget Channel’ (shown below) which debuted this year on some higher-end Samsung sets.
But in the US, Verizon has opted to create what it calls a ‘Widget Bazaar’ for its fibre-optic TV service (FiOS), providing a glimpse into just one of the potential applications we might see on Australia’s fibre-based National Broadband Network in the years to come.
The Widget Bazaar, which launched a Verizon-only outlet but is now being opened to third-party developers, lets subscribers browse a gallery of apps via their set-top box, which is connected to Verizon’s 50Mbit/s fibre backbone. Widgets are loaded onto the set-top box and thence onto the flat-screen TV set.
Facebook can be a little 'in your face' when it's on a 69 inch plasma TV screen!
The formula is the same as that created by Apple: many apps are free, others are paid for (the cost is added to the subscribers’ monthly bill) and Verizon will take a 30% cut of each sale.
Lightweight casual gaming is tipped to be a star of the Widget Bazaar, along with apps built around news, weather and social networking. Facebook and Twitter apps already available for FiOS allow users to see status updates and post their own using a wireless keyboard.
Users can also scan for tweets related to the show they’re currently watching and discuss the show with other viewers – something which should prove exceptionally popular during live sports broadcasts and reality TV shows.
Users can call up a list of Tweets relating to the show they're watching...
Verizon sees this as enhancing the TV experience rather than turning the TV set into a big-screen PC, says carrier CIO Shaygan Kheradpir.
“People don’t necessarily want a full browser on their TV. TV viewing is still very much a sitting back experience. And what people really want is a service that is relevant to the TV viewing experience and also provides a simple interface with one click access.”
Sports is also a good fit for TV widgets, from real events to 'fantasy football'
Photo galleries – from Facebook, Flickr feeds and even digital camera memory cards or USB keys loaded into a set-top box – are another natural fit, says Kheradpir.
“I’ve been shocked at the number of Fios TV subscribers who are streaming pictures from their Facebook pages onto their TVs. But it’s obvious when you think about why people want to look at pictures from Facebook on the living room screen. It is the biggest and best screen in the house.”