Intel and Yahoo have announced the Widget Channel, which will bring internet widgets to the TV set. The Widget Channel, unveiled Wednesday at the Intel Developers Forum in San Francisco, is an interactive “snippet bar” at the bottom of the TV screen that shows weather, news, sports scores, stock prices, and Flickr photos, among (potentially) myriad other things. Like Apple’s App Store, widgets will be available for download to TVs. Yahoo and Intel plan on releasing the development kit, which could be exactly what makes the Widget Channel a success. The participation of a heterogeneous and experimental development crowd could ensure that something potentially this awkward actually

works.

Companies planning to participate with the Widget Channel include Blockbuster, CBS Interactive, Disney-ABC Television Group, eBay, GE, MTV, Samsung Electronics, Showtime and Toshiba.

Bringing the internet to TV has been tried in the past, but with little success. The key to having internet applications on the TV is to not fundamentally change the TV-viewing experience.

"For the first time we are bringing the full richness of the internet and web 2.0 and optimizing the TV while respecting the TV's unique attributes: simplicity, ease of use, socializing and entertainment value. All the things that people love about TV," said Eric Kim, head of Intel’s digital home group.

Intel and Yahoo must focus on and exploit what makes the television experience unique, or they risk creating a folly (in the architectural sense) like Vista Gadgets, which looks neat on the showroom floor, but is entirely inconsequential.

They also need to ensure they get their chips into as many future TV sets as possible. Paying for a stand-alone box would effectively be buying a redundancy: as there's a good chance the buyer already has the internet, it would seem a rather frivolous purchase.

On the other hand, if Intel and Yahoo do succeed, they will not only offer a more interactive TV-watching experience, they will also marry television and internet-advertising 2.0, a powerful alchemy.

By Mark Alvarez