Canvas’ Biggest Threat Is Happening In Las Vegas Right Now

Like I wrote last year, the Project Canvas connected-TV front-end may have been approved by the BBC Trust – but its biggest challenge may be winning over the TV makers who are already launching their own standards and services for TV internet content…

Exactly that is coming to pass at this week’s annual Consumer Electronics Show, where connected-TV services are some of the hottest announcements and some products are already available

Intel (NSDQ: INTC) and Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) already showed off Yahoo TV Widgets on their new Connected TV platform in August 2008; now it’s got signatures to include the system on TVs from Sony (NYSE: SNE), LG (SEO: 066570), Samsung and Vizio. At CES, Yahoo announced carriage on more TVs and gadgets from Vizio, Hisense and Viewsonic, plus chips from MIPS and Sigma. And LG announced it would add to its French TVs a portal for Orange’s TV and internet services.

These – and plenty more manufacturers besides – are the people BBC IPTV director Richard Halton needs to have add the Canvas UI to their TVs and boxes, if it is to make it from a drawing-board plan to the exciting reality it could become for both free and paid providers.

But, though conceived in mid-2008, Canvas didn’t get BBC approval until December 2009, and has only existed publicly as a mock-up throughout. The big global hardware makers will need to be convinced that accommodating a new suite for just a single national market will be worth their while – they’ve had the last year to develop their own, very real connected offerings regardless.

Halton has previously committed to layering internet “apps” or “widgets” over Canvas’ basic VOD features, and to offer a Software Developers Kit (WDK) that could unleash a new wave of indie TV developer creativity. But Yahoo already claims “thousands” of developers are writing widgets for it system. New ones announced at CEO include apps from Sky News, MuZu and Betfair, while Yahoo also unveiled its TV Widget Developers Kit.

This is not just about rudimentary weather apps or Flickr widgets – folks like Napster, Dailymotion and Brightcove also plan to offer music and VOD, while others exist for Twitter, eBay (NSDQ: EBAY) and Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) – meaning TVs from some of the big hitters will already come with online on-demand video and widgetised content by the time Canvas comes to market.

It’s not just Yahoo that’s already becoming an internet-TV gatekeeper. More than 20 percent of flat-screen TVs shipped in Europe this year will have internet connectivity, Futuresource estimates – that