I'm in a keynote at the Intel Developer Forum, and Intel has just announced two major iniatives in combining IT and TV. In conjunction with Yahoo, Intel has created the Widget Channel, an open widget-based platform for developers to bring applications to TVs. Alongside that, Intel is launching an x86 architecture system-on-chip device around which TV manufacturers can build smart products capable of running widgets.
A quick demo shows how it works. The widget dock runs along the bottom of the TV screen, bringing up a ribbon of apps called snippets - Flickr, Yahoo Sports, weather, news, movies on demand, and so on. It's very similar to TV news crawls, so it feels like it's still part of the TV experience. When you pick something, a sidebar appears along the side of the screen, again with a very simple interface that overlays part of the TV picture but doesn't obscure it all. A further level takes over the entire screen.
Widgets can be chosen from a Widget Gallery - which looks similar in conception to the Apple App Store for the iPhone. Indeed, I wouldn't be at all surprised if widgets and iPhone apps became the same things.
Powering all this is a new chip, the Intel Media Processor CE 3100 - previously known as Canmore. Inte says it's the first consumer electronics (CE) optimised media processor based on the IA-64 architecture. It has 150 million transistors, 46 clock domains and 15 unique pieces of IP - in other words, it does a lot of different things at once.
It's a multistream, multiformat device that can process all the current standard video and audio codecs. It's also got 3D graphics. an IA CPU core on chip, and associated north and south bridges.
All this is wrapped up in what the company is calling the Intel Media Play technology. The keynote demo showed multiple HD streams of different standards on one display at the same time. Most current video processors fast-forward on keyframes only, but intel demo'd an all-frame fast forward, plus some 3D picture manipulation, slanting video streams, creating reflections and so on. All very smooth and hinting strongly of some real fun to come. And of course, it runs all that existing software - Java, HTML, Linux, whatever.
Let's see how the CE and TV industries react. First indications are positive, but we'll get back to that side later.