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Yahoo and Intel hope products to be shown at the Consumer Electronics Show in January will mark the beginning of their Internet-fueled expansion to the world of TV. Yahoo and Intel built their success upon widespread use of personal computers, but the two companies hope products to be shown at the Consumer Electronics Show in January will mark the beginning of their Internet-fueled expansion to the world of TV as well.

The two companies have attracted several significant manufacturing and content allies in the attempt to bring new smarts and interactivity to a part of the electronics world that has remained a more passive part of people’s digital lives.

Intel and Yahoo showed off Net-enabled TV prototypes in August, but the companies’ technology will be presented in more finished form at the electronics show within products by Samsung, Toshiba, and a number of new partners that have signed on since the debut.

What exactly are they trying to achieve? For Yahoo, it’s establishment of the Widget Channel, a software foundation that can house programs for browsing photos, using the Internet’s abundant socially connected services, watching YouTube videos, or digging deeper into TV shows–and through which Yahoo will be able to show advertisements. For Intel, it’s a foothold in an industry whose microprocessors have typically been cheaper, less powerful, and less power-hungry.

Yahoo is confident the products will catch on, in part because it’s set “very low” licensing requirements, said Patrick Barry, vice president of Yahoo’s Connected TV initiative.

“We do not see it as a niche offering in a few high-end models. We see this as moving into the mainstream. In 2009 we’re going to see good penetration into the product lineups of the consumer electronics companies,” Barry said. “Beginning in 2010, I think, you’re going to see Internet-connected consumer electronics devices dominating the lineup.”

But for both companies, TVs are terra incognita. “We emerged from the ocean of the PC,” Barry said.

An anthropologist’s view
Despite years of effort, the idea to put media-centric PCs in the living room hasn’t caught on widely. But Intel, stung by its poorly received Viiv brand, has been taking the challenge seriously.

It even dispatched its top anthropologist–yes, the chipmaker employs anthropologists–to carefully study how people use TVs. In other words, Intel is trying to adapt to reality, not foist its ideas on an unwilling market.

Some people like to watch TV, but anthropologist Genevieve Bell, director of user experience for Intel, likes to watch people watching TV. Specifically, Intel concluded that unlike the PC, TVs are social. People watch it together, and what they watch turns into what they talk about. Another difference from PCs: it must be simple and reliable, she said.

When bringing the Internet to the TV, “You couldn’t just turn it into a PC,” she said.

And it’s pretty obvious why those not in the TV market would be angling for a piece of the action. People in the U.S. spend about 5 times more time watching TV than using a computer, Bell said. Globally, it’s a factor of 25; unusually, the TV and PC time is at parity in Israel, perhaps because of communication habits, she added.

More ads
For decades, people have been accustomed to advertising-supported television. The Widget Channel technology opens up some new horizons for Yahoo, though Barry said the company isn’t going to rush to plaster sponsorships over the new interface.

“We have a lot of support from the advertising community, but we’re focused on the consumer now,” Barry said. “What you’ll see initially is us trying to fall all over ourselves trying to make the consumer happy. The advertisers understand that.” He wouldn’t comment on when advertising will be launched with the technology.

Although Yahoo will eventually show ads, it won’t have a lock on them. Barry said: “We are not going to be locking down anything from a walled garden perspective, including monetization. We get a nice advantage, knowing the ins and outs, but we will not limit the platform to being addressable by us.”

There are many opportunities for ads, including the dock that can be shown across the bottom of the TV screen and in pages that fill the screen.

The Widget Channel technology is based on the Widget Engine software Yahoo got in 2005 with its acquisition of Konfabulator, and it lets programmers write a wide variety of applications. Course corrections
Intel learned from initial testing of the TV technology, Bell said. For one thing, the company found that people didn’t like the Widget Channel controls appearing on the left edge of the screen, one option the companies had demonstrated. Instead, people prefer the bottom, where they’re accustomed to seeing text already.

For another, she said, people expressed a powerful desire for a big button to make the software go away in one fell swoop–no menus or arrow keys or complication–so they could get back to watching TV when they wanted. That big button is also used to activate the Widget Channel.

And nobody wanted yet another remote control.

To help chart its long-term course, Intel gauged consumer sentiment in part by asking what people thought the future of TV would look like. People’s answers generally fit into a few categories:

• Something that would provide relevant information in real time, such as the weather right before heading to a sporting event.

• Something that would connect them to other people they care about, a variation of social networking.

• Something that would let them participate more with what they’re watching, for example by figuring out where a show’s cast members already had acted, or finding, rating, and sorting content.

Few, though, wanted a full-on Web browser, nor a keyboard to clutter up the room.

Yahoo sees the same fallow ground as Intel in the market.

TV innovations that have succeeded focused on screen size, image fidelity, and flat-screen technology, Barry said. “But the consumer electronics industry has not really explored the…connectivity that the Internet provides.”

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Despite the bad times, businesses still require their IT to help them stay ahead of the competition by offering customers attractive and innovative products with the service levels they have come to expect says OpTier’s Motti Tal.

By Motti Tal, OpTier, Special to ZDNet
Posted on ZDNet News: Dec 12, 2008 11:11:23 AM

Commentary–The current turmoil in the economy and the projected near and medium term downturn have immediate effects on the way we manage enterprise IT. Businesses across the globe are taking action to reduce cost and improve efficiencies. IT is taking a big hit, and the challenge of effectively managing IT with reduced headcount and budgets is growing. Uncertainty is limiting business and IT from knowing they can truly prepare for future demand, the crisis in the capital markets industry is an important example at how the current volatility was very difficult to handle business wise and a formidable challenge for IT.

Furthermore, increased M&A activity is driving intensified consolidation and integration requirements. And, as scrutiny increases around every dollar spent on IT cost reduction initiatives increase the importance of ongoing consolidation and shared services initiatives. At the same time, businesses still require their IT to help them stay ahead of the competition by offering customers attractive and innovative products with the service levels they have come to expect.

Business Transaction Management (BTM) technology addresses these critical needs.

BTM technology is the most effective technology available for assuring service levels are met, outages are avoided and IT resources are utilized in accordance with business priorities. It is being successfully used by leading organizations, and is especially helpful for those currently facing economic challenges.

By using BTM technology, organizations are boosting business activity using existing resources, improving the efficiency of IT management and driving down the cost of ownership for application and system management tools.

Boost business activity using existing resources
Using BTM complete and continuous business transaction visibility is gained across all tiers in the infrastructure, in real time. This visibility allows the direct alignment of system resources with the most important business activities.

For example, some business transactions can really be infrequently used but hogging computing resources. Using a BTM solution these transactions can be easily identified and optimized to free up valuable resources for more important business generating activities.

Transactions that are rarely used and do not contribute to business success can be decommissioned altogether, further freeing up resources. Any resource heavy transactions are re-tuned to assure optimal usage, increasing the ROI of the existing infrastructure and deferring hardware expenses.

Avoid outages and improve IT management efficiency
Outages are expensive and are damaging to ones business. Transactions are the most effective early warning sensors indicating impending outages before they occur, allowing time and providing insight to address them.

Take a large UK-based bank for example. In detecting a developing service disruption and a potential outage it had discovered that an alert based on BTM technology showed up before any of its more traditional system and application monitors by as much as four hours. These extra four hours gave staff enough time to attend to the application, assure business transactions continued to flow smoothly through the system and avoid an outage. This directly contributed to business results and customer satisfaction. Many peer organizations have reported similar experiences.

BTM is also the most effective method of isolating the cause of performance problems. It does so without requiring multiple experts to co-operate or join an “all hands call”. BTM assures only necessary people are called to attend to performance issues. It provides a full transaction execution record coupled with a cross tier performance breakdown view freeing up resources and allowing an IT department to operate effectively, even when headcounts are down.

Using BTM technology also frees up costly man hours spent building reports for the business and IT management. Instead of having to excavate data from multiple sources and manually create reports information depicting service levels, resources and business usage trends is readily available from a single solution at the press of a button.

Reduce total cost of ownership (TCO) of applications, servers and management tools
Operational expenditure and capital expenditures combined make up an IT department’s TCO. We have shown above how BTM will help you save on capital expenditures in deferred hardware purchases and operational expenditures in better utilization of expert times and reduced outages. However, TCO also consist of the cost of licenses for supporting software tools. The use of these tools can be scaled down with the confidence in knowing that transactions are being monitored with the necessary visibility. Significant savings for organizations adopting BTM are being driven by the decommissioning of monitoring agents and the appropriate use of technical deep dive tools.

Expedite the adoption of shared services
Shared IT services present a significant value proposition for businesses cutting down on costs. This is why so many businesses are building them and making efforts to move as many infrastructure, application and service functions as possible onto them.

BTM is unique in its ability to provide end-to-end visibility that extends from application front ends across the shared environment and further down the execution chain to external providers. It gives application owners the same level of control and confidence in their application on the shared environment that they would have on a dedicated system. This is an important contributing factor to an organizations rate of shared services adoption.

BTM helps companies assure they can make it past these hard times and come out on the other side with better and stronger capabilities in IT and business.

biography
Motti Tal is a founder of OpTier and serves as its executive vice president of marketing, product and business development.

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