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Yahoo Reups on Web TV With Dev Kit, Partners

Yahoo is forging ahead with its plans to bridge the divide between the Internet and television, today releasing a widget developer kit for its Connected TV product and announcing a slew of new distribution partners.

Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) is now making available to developers at large a TV widget development kit, inviting the community to submit widgets that can integrate Web content and applications to make television a more interactive medium.

The company is billing today's news, announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, as a dramatic expansion of the Web TV program it rolled out a year ago at the same event.

At the time, Yahoo had lined up TV widgets from a variety of media partners, such as Amazon's video on demand program, Blockbuster and Twitter.

The idea of the Web-enabled TV, or the connected living room, as it's sometimes known, has a long and generally undistinguished track record. Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), AOL and others have rolled out various initiatives to bring Web content to the big screen, but none has lived up to its promise.

Yahoo's efforts in the Web TV space date to August 2008, when it formed a partnership with Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) to develop the widget channel and supporting chip architecture.

The TV widgets are an extension of Yahoo's platform for the PC widgets, offering developers a set of APIs with a framework for writing JavaScript or XML applications. Yahoo is inviting developers to sign up for the widget kit here.

One of the keys to bringing Internet TV into the mainstream is a new class of sets coming to market that are equipped with the hardware and software needed to run interactive applications such as Yahoo's Connected TV.

In that spirit, Yahoo said today that it had signed up set-makers VIZIO and Hisense to include the widget engine in forthcoming models. Yahoo has reached similar agreements with hardware players MIPS Technologies and Sigma Designs to include support for the widget engine in devices powered by their processors.

A year ago, Yahoo put out word that it had reached distribution agreements with big-name electronics manufacturers Sony, LG and Samsung. Yahoo also had a partnership with VIZIO, which it expanded with today's announcement.