Samsung's Internet@TV feature is the most impressive of its type, with widgets accessible from the remote control for Yahoo news, Yahoo weather and a Flickr account. "A YouTube widget launches next month," says Darren Petersen, Product Manager for TVs at Samsung. There will also be a Yahoo video widget plus games, such as Soduku, with more announcements to follow. "This kind of widget tech is almost like new channels for people," says Petersen.
But what about the iPlayer? Could we see a widget for that? "Ultimately that's the kind of widget that we're looking to come on board, as well as for streaming ITV and Channel 4's video-on-demand. That's ultimately where this is going to go – that's the future of this technology."
Samsung's is a closed platform, but the BBC is proposing an open standard platform for TV over broadband called Project Canvas.
If it gets the go-ahead from the BBC Trust – something that's in no way certain – Project Canvas could to spawn a new generation of digital TV set-top boxes that can host widgets for virtually any IPTV channel on the internet.
"An open standard would of course benefit the consumer and everyone in the industry," says Petersen, "but we need to know what the specs are."
"It's not a service that could be downloaded into existing Freesat hardware," confirms Abbott, while Sky says it intends to take part fully in the consultation process. "It could offer a great opportunity to extend the reach of Sky Player, and we'll explore that potential," says Swaine. Sky Player offers access to a library of live channels and on-demand shows, but it's currently only available online.
A new rival for DLNA?
Away from IPTV, but just as exciting is multimedia home networking. Although vaguely similar systems are already being used on some TVs and Blu-ray players – such as the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) system that allows rudimentary networking with a PC – a new worldwide standard from China called DiiVA is gathering pace.
It promises a high bandwidth, two-way system where information can be sent to and fro between devices around the home.
"Any DiiVA TV can access and control any DiiVA source device on the network," DiiVA spokesperson Steve Yum told us.
A system like DiiVA makes it possible to play video games in the living room from a PS3 stored in a bedroom, or control and run applications on a remote PC while you're sitting in front of the TV. Straight internet browsing is also possible. However, the system, which is supported so far by LG, Panasonic and Samsung, uses heavy-duty CAT6 cables around a home, which does clash with the craze for wireless devices. "The bandwidth of DiiVA is greater than any existing wireless interface," says Yum, but there's no reason why a wireless system couldn't be melded into DiiVA, aside from reliability issues.
What DiiVA could provide is simplicity. "DiiVA itself is an interface standard," says Yum. "Widgets or Apps can be built to take advantage of the connectivity that DiiVA offers, but they are not a part of the DiiVA standard themselves."
DiiVA has only recently appeared, but broadcasters and manufacturers are all aware of it. That includes Sky, who clearly has ambitions to expand its Sky Multiroom feature to include an element of home networking. "We're very excited about that," says Swaine. "We haven't come out publicly, but we are absolutely looking at home networking. Digital TV has to pervade around the whole home." It's likely to include functionality such as pausing live TV in one room and continuing to watch in another room – which is exactly what a system like DiiVA promises.
We may be in the middle of the HD Ready revolution, but don't get too attached to your HDMI cables. If broadcasters and manufacturers can create an interface that includes IPTV widgets and two-way home networking, we could have another wave of intelligent TVs and set-top boxes to contend with.
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