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November 22, 2014

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Yahoo’s mission: Access to Web content, no computer required

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Rob Curley

Yahoo TV

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Yahoo TV widgets

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USA today widget

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YouTube video access.

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YouTube search.

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The YouTube clip is found.

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The YouTube clip is loading.

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The YouTube clip plays.

"Google" has now entered the lexicon as essentially meaning "to find something on the Internet."

If another big online search company has its way, to "Yahoo" might mean getting Internet content on a television.

One of the big product roll-outs at this year's CES is Yahoo's TV Widgets. The goal here is simple, even if the technology and compatibility issues aren't: to make it so that a television viewer can easily jump to online content without having to fire up a computer.

One of the things that has become a staple of television debuts at CES over the last few years has been the integration of Web connections into TVs. But the usability of those connections has been questionable at best.

And that's where Yahoo is trying to fill the void.

The integration of the Yahoo TV Widgets into the latest Samsung television models seemed fairly slick as I tried it out earlier this afternoon.

It starts with accessing the Web via a button on the remote and some pre-installed Yahoo TV widgets sliding across the bottom of the screen.

Navigating the widgets comes from the left-right/up-down buttons on the television's remote. There's weather, sports score, news and all of those sorts of basic kinds of content that extend into the left-hand side of the screen when selected. Photos from flickr also were available.

The cooler part is when accessing Web video widgets, like the one from YouTube.com, which has basically the same sort of fairly intuitive integration that YouTube has on iPhones. Once a clip is selected from YouTube, the video clip then takes over the full screen.

Granted, I was getting the demonstration from one of the developers at Yahoo, but it all looked fairly straight-forward and pretty dang easy to use. I saw it on one of the new Samsung TVs.

I don't know if my mom could use the Yahoo TV Widgets, but I'm suspecting she could. My mom is often my litmus test for if something has mainstream accessibility.

At CES, a Yahoo spokesperson said that along with Samsung, the company's TV widgets would also eventually be available in televisions from Sony, LG, Vizio and Toshiba. At least one major cable company, Comcast, also is working on a cable box that would seamlessly integrate the Yahoo TV Widgets.

The Yahoo TV Widgets site shows widgets that are currently available, or soon to be available -- including widgets from CBS, eBay, MySpace, Showtime, Netflix, Twitter, USA Today, the New York Times and a couple of others.

The CBS profile on the Yahoo site says the network will be offering content from shows like "CSI," "NCIS," "Survivor" and "The Late Show with David Letterman."

If integrated correctly, and that's a big IF considering mainstream media's awesome ability at screwing up things like this, content on demand like this could be a powerful force for Yahoo and its widget partners in an on-demand world.

Imagine being able to easily watch Letterman's Top 10 list or a great musical performance from the show in an easy fashion whenever you really wanted to see it.

I can, and I hope it catches on and gets easier and easier to use.

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