Internet-enabled TVs to feature ‘app stores’

“App stores” are coming to the television as developers and content providers move their software and services to the big screens of internet-connected TVs.

Many TV sets on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week have an added Ethernet connection as the internet, along with 3D, becomes an integrated part of the viewing experience.

Set-top box makers such as Roku are also enabling add-on internet connectivity to TVs.

Streaming movie services, including Netflix, have been the mainstay of offerings so far, but the big TV makers are expanding beyond this to increase the appeal of their sets.

Vudu, which began as a streaming movie service, announced Vudu Apps on Wednesday, a platform that will deliver video, music on demand, photo browsing, news services, social networking and other applications through internet-enabled TVs and Blu-ray players from Mitsubishi, Sanyo, Sharp, Toshiba and Vizio.

The PopBox set-top box launched by Syabas at CES features “Popapps” and “infopops”, which allows users to play games, update their Twitter status, keep a check on the weather and control devices elsewhere in their home, as well as stream internet video.

LG and Panasonic this week announced that high-definition internet video calling would be integrated into their TVs in a partnership with Skype.

The Consumer Electronics Association expects 20 per cent of TVs sold in the US this year to be Ethernet-enabled, growing to more than 50 per cent by 2013. That will create a new platform of millions of devices for content providers and application developers.

Apple has proved that the success of “App Stores” depends on growing a developer community. Yahoo is announcing on Thursday that it is opening up its pioneering Widget platform for the TV.

TVs from Sony, LG, Samsung and Vizio have begun integrating its widget programmes over the past year and more than 4,000 developers have requested software development kits.

CEA research suggests that 65 per cent of US consumers have not yet linked their TV to the net, only 12 per cent have looked at their digital photos on the bigger screen and 8 per cent have watched content downloaded from the net on their TVs.

“Lots of consumers own computers and TVs, but not many of them are combining the two, so this is going to be a really growing area,” says Ben Arnold, CEA senior research analyst.

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