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Why Web widgets will invade your TV

Web widgets bring Internet perks to the biggest screen in most people’s homes.

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The Internet revolution may finally be televised.

Innocuous little software applications, popularly known as “widgets,” may turn out to be the back door to your TV screen that Internet companies have been waiting for.

For more than a decade, businesses have been trying to make the Internet available on the largest screen in most homes. In 1996, Time Warner offered WebTV, which failed to find an audience and folded. Even today, projects like Hewlett Packard’s MediaSmart (2006) and Apple TV (2007) have yet to win over large numbers of viewers, hampered by complicated setups or limited programming choices.

Widgets promise to bring the perks of the Internet to TV screens, using a familiar remote control instead of a computer mouse.

All indications are that widgets are going to “move very quickly to a great many of the TVs being sold in the next few years – if not all of them,” says Kurt Scherf, vice president and principal analyst at Parks Associates, a market research firm in Dallas that specializes in emerging consumer technologies.

What’s changed? Unlike a decade ago, most households now have broadband Internet service, meaning people already have the ability to stream high-quality Internet data, including video, to their computers. In many cases, these broadband connections are provided by the same company that pipes cable television into homes.

At the same time, more and more consumers are becoming familiar with downloading and using “apps,” or widgets, on their cellphones or laptops. Apple’s iPhone alone offers thousands of apps that add useful or fun functions to that mobile phone.

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