Real Innovation for Verizon’s TV Widgets Will Be in Your Hand(set)

Verizon (s VZ) announced today that it will be opening up its FiOS “Widget Bazaar” to third-party developers as the company hopes to spur innovation around the way we consume television (and sell a few TV apps along the way). If Verizon can keep its head in the game, it actually does have all the pieces in place to be a leader in the space.
In announcing the openness of the Widget Bazaar platform, Shaygan Kheradpir, Verizon’s chief information officer said “Developers should start thinking now about applications that are appropriate for the ‘big screen,’ not the pocket-sized screens they’ve been writing for so far. We’ll be looking for tools that engage TV viewers and enrich or enhance the ‘living-room’ experience in new ways.”
I think a more strategic statement would have been to say that developers should start thinking about applications that are appropriate for the big and the pocket-sized screens. TV widgets are transforming right before our eyes. Where they used to be about checking the weather and stocks, now they are about interacting with friends via Twitter, or sharing photos via Facebook (among other possibilities). As our televisions access more content and we are able to do more and we interact with that content on-screen, we will need input devices that are flexible and make sense to us. Forget the 53 button remote control — just use your phone.

Because Verizon has a TV, broadband and a wireless platform, smart developers could whip up apps that cross all three, providing users with greater control of their television, a way to search and enter text through a keypad, or a way to take their TV content with them on the go.
This type of cross-platform app is something that Verizon is already thinking about. I spoke with Ruchir Rodrigues, vice president, product platforms at Verizon, who provided a couple examples. Instead of futzing with an on-screen keyboard, you could use your phone to Tweet and then read the responses on the TV screen, he said. Or, using location-based services like Chaperone, a parent could, while watching television, bring up an app to see where their kids are at that moment.
Getting this kind of app singularity would, of course, rely on all the parts of Verizon not being siloed apart from each other. Something Rodrigues didn’t seem worried about “We’re a pretty close-knit company,” he said. But then there’s the issue of exactly how open Verizon will be with its Widget Bazaar platform — the company has had an issue with openness on its wireless side before.
Verizon isn’t the only one with consumer touchpoints across video, broadband and wireless. AT&T (s ATT) has similar opportunities in front of it with its wireless offering (complete with iPhone!) and U-verse. And on the pure TV widget front, Verizon faces competition from Yahoo’s (s YHOO) TV widget platform.