Some Thoughts On The iPad Widget Business
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Bruce Warila

TechCrunch reported today that Scala has funded ($2M) Thinking Screen Media to build out and promote their FrameChannel (widget) service for the iPad.  Press releases usually tell you just enough information to get the marketplace thinking, and Scala’s release wasn’t any different.  Here’s a quote:

FrameChannel intelligently streams the timeliest content from the selected channels, so users can always view the very latest information as they move through their homes.

Instead of reading between the lines and attempting to divine what’s coming next, I am going to attempt to fill in some of the gaps in the marketplace that services like FrameChannel could fill.

First, start with the off perspective that the iPad is a $499+ fully integrated, personal digital signage unit that does other computing things as well.  Second, calculate the distinction between a website, an application, and a channel - all optimized for a slick wireless, handheld device that has a pixel resolution of 768 by 1024.  If there is a distinction between a website, an app, and a channel, Thinking Screen Media has to educate us.

For now, let’s just say that a channel delivers semi-interactive, no-brainer, set-it and forget-it, one-click access to stuff; whereas a website requires thoughtful engagement and an application requires even more (engagement). 

What kind of minimal engagement stuff do humans need on a one-click to-my-iPad basis?  News, sports, weather and personal/social digital media are the oh-so obvious answers, but are there other dead-simple channels that we want or need on our tablet-sized, mobile devices?

First, I want the channel that pays me to watch it.  I have to swipe it occasionally to prove that I am somewhat interested (alive) and engaged, but while it’s running, I’m earning money.

Second, I want all my channels to learn my preferences (like Pandora).  Don’t send me anything that you know that I will hate.

Third, I want all my channels to leverage social recommendation to send me stuff that others like me also like. (Contact me to find out about the social recommendation engine we have been working on for the last three years.)

Fourth, I want a channel that teaches me (and my kids) using minimal text, images and voice exactly what I need to learn on a daily basis (my daily ten minute lesson).

Fifth, I want to be able to share my channels with online friends.

Twenty minutes into this post and I am having no problem whatsoever with conceiving ideas for channel features and channel content.  Thinking Screen Media is probably onto something with their FrameChannel vision and service.  The barriers to entry seem low, but there is a lot of room to differentiate and deliver value to end-users.  I am looking forward to watching this space.

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