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Intel Partners With Yahoo To Enhance Digital TV

The technology includes Intel's new media processor, formerly code-named Canmore, which handles HD video, home-theater quality audio, and 3-D graphics.
Intel on Wednesday launched a system on a chip (SoC) for digital television, and said it has partnered with Yahoo in building software that brings the Web to the TV screen.

Media Processor CE 3100, launched at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, is the first of a line of SoCs for consumer electronics, a market that Intel is aggressively pursuing as the Internet infiltrates an increasingly number of consumer devices ranging from shrinking mobile PCs to TVs and stereo systems. Intel is particularly interested in carving a space for its processors in devices in a home entertainment center.

The CE 3100 goes beyond TV, and is adaptable to other consumer electronics, such as high-definition DVD players and cable set-top boxes. The SoC includes Intel's new media processor, formerly code-named Canmore, which handles HD video, home-theater quality audio, and 3-D graphics. Consumer electronics makers Samsung Electronics and Toshiba will be among the first companies to use the new technology.

While other chipmakers build competing products, Intel claims its offering is better for software developers, since they can use the same tools available for building applications for Intel's other x86 processors commonly found in the PC world. Intel plans to ship CE 3100 next month.

Yahoo is among the first companies to build software on top of the new SoC. At IDF, Patrick Barry, VP of Digital Home at Yahoo, joined keynoter Eric Kim, senior VP and general manager of Intel's Digital Home Group, in demonstrating Yahoo's Widget Channel.

The software is essentially a framework for accessing Web content while watching TV. Developers can use JavaScript, XML, HTML, and Adobe Flash for building widgets, which are small Web applications that run on the framework.

Widget icons for accessing sports, news, weather, stock prices, and other content, as well as Web services such as Yahoo's Flickr photo service, are displayed on a docking station at the bottom of the screen. Activating a widget calls up a sidebar that the user can use to view or interact with content.

In designing the user interface, Yahoo tried to make accessing the Web part of the total TV experience, and not make it so obtrusive that it took over the whole screen. "The object was to leave the user in the environment they're used to," Barry said.

In addition, the Yahoo framework is open to third-party developers and other Web sites. "It's not just Yahoo services," Barry said. "We have to give people everything they want."

The Widget Channel, powered by Yahoo's fifth-generation widget engine, will include the ability to download movies from Blockbuster's online movie rental service. It will also be open to retailers to build widgets for browsing and buying products, such as clothing from Macy's, which was used as part of the demo.

Companies working with Intel and Yahoo in building and deploying TV widgets include Blockbuster, CBS, CinemaNow, Cinquest, Comcast, Disney-ABC Television Group, eBay, General Electric, Group M, Joost, MTV, Samsung Electronics, Schematic, Showtime, Toshiba, and Twitter.

No timetable was given as to when the Widget Channel would be offered in televisions.