Technology | Media | Telecommunications

Friday, March 27, 2009

Untapped Demand for Widget-Enabled TV

The Diffusion Group released new data suggesting that the appeal of widget-enabled TV and video systems will be far greater than many expect. As well, the range of widget-based applications demanded by consumers will quickly eclipse the basic information push apps to be featured on the first wave of widget-enabled TVs and video platforms.

"TDG strongly believes that the introduction of widget-based apps into the TV environment will be the tipping point for Internet-enabled TV," noted Michael Greeson, president of TDG.

In support of this argument, TDG points to data collected during a January 2009 survey of adult broadband users in the U.S. which quantified an unusually high value perception of TV-based widgets.

According to TDG's research, 76 percent of consumers believe having a widget toolbar on their primary TV would be valuable (48 percent "somewhat valuable" and 28 percent "extremely valuable") with only 13 percent being neutral and 11 percent negative.

"Rarely in quantitative consumer research does a new feature or application receive such overwhelming support," notes Greeson. "The widget concept is something consumers seem to understand -- they just get it."

For years, the idea of an Internet-enabled TV was viewed negatively, the impact of a long hangover from failed efforts such as WebTV. A central pain point for these early solutions was the complexity of the interface -- in most cases, it was browser-based and URL-dependent.

The same was the case with early mobile web efforts, a difficulty finally overcome when Apple chose widgets as graphical references for their mobile interface. This was a game-changer, states Greeson.

After the introduction of the iPhone and its widget-based interface, mobile web usage increased, hardware vendors moved to similar designs, and consumers began to think differently about the value of Internet connectivity on mobile devices. TDG believes the same phenomenon will take place once widgets hit the TV.

Greeson warns that Consumer Electronics (CE) OEMs and broadband service providers must make certain that their platforms can handle rapidly evolving usage scenarios. If Apple's widget experience is any indication, the number and variety of TV-based widgets will expand rapidly and in many cases outstrip the ability of low-end hardware to support these applications.

Should this happen firmware upgrades won't matter because the hardware is what defines the headroom and sets the ceiling.

Future proofing Internet-enabled video platforms is critical -- OEMs and operators must think beyond supporting the first round of applications and consider what will comes next, because that application will be here within months, not years.