Thursday, 15 January 2009

Who Wants Widgets?

When any technology is suddenly hyped or gets a ramp in news coverage, it is always interesting to read the minority report. Farhad Manjoo's CES piece in Slate magazine is no exception. In this article he addresses a topic I commented on last week – the rise of widgets on the TV.

While Manjoo makes some good points, his central argument seems to be the tired old lean-forward vs lean-back user interaction that sums up the differences between TV and PC. For me, widgets are more subtle - I see them as an evolution of the European teletext service and the digital red button apps. Teletext and EPG are not lean-forward activities, they are just ways to augment the information that the TV provides the user. TV widgets will fulfil a similar function.

What about Flickr and Amazon though? Is one-click ordering a book really that interactively different than one-click ordering a movie? Is organising your photos really so different to organising your night's viewing? It doesn't feel different to me.


matttvgenius said...

I agree, widgets won't upset our relationship with our TV. Farhad must be far too busy to be a PS3 owner. Using a controller with less buttons than a TV remote millions of people send messages, check the weather on the web, download content and much more on their TV screen.
Our TV Search app on Sky Active has users sending query's to a SQL database with their TV remote - not a laptop in sight!

Richard Baker said...

I’ve been very interested to hear what other readers thought about Farhad’s views, so thanks for your comment Matt. You make a good point about the input method, if the service providers get this right then widgets can deliver real-time updates and ultimately enhance viewers’ TV experience.