Yahoo Courts Second Screen App Developers With New Tools To Connect Phones And TV

Launched in 2009, Yahoo’s Connected TV was one of the first platforms to introduce an open app development kit (ADK) for Internet-capable TVs. Now it’s making those apps even more powerful, by allowing developers to build apps that integrate TV and mobile capabilities.

At a meeting with developers Thursday evening, the Yahoo Connected TV team is rolling out the newest version of its ADK, in addition to open source availability of its device communication library for Android devices on GitHub.

The new ADK let developers connect their mobile and connected TV apps, supported by two-way messaging between the devices through Yahoo’s device communication protocol. That way, developers can build apps for smart phones and tablets that recognize what users are watching or games that are being played on the TV.

Useful apps could include those that add smart TV controls and navigation to the mobile device, or allow viewers to share content from the small screen to the big screen. And there’s a huge opportunity for multi-user games that take advantage of both screens: Think Scrabble or poker, in which the playing field is on the TV, but tiles and cards are controlled by the devices in users’ hands.

To speed app development, Yahoo has open sourced a library of communications tools, which developers can use to build up and customize their own apps. For now, the library is only available for Android developers, although the company is looking to soon release a comparable offering for iOS devices, according to Ron Jacoby, chief architect and VP of Yahoo Connected TV.

The ADK aims to take advantage of new features that will be available in the most recent group of TVs with the Yahoo platform installed, Jacoby told me by phone. Those TVs, which were demoed at CES 2012, come from Sony. There’s also the chance that older TVs with the Yahoo software in them could get the features, but firmware upgrades are rolled out at the manufacturer’s discretion.

Yahoo’s Connected TV platform isn’t the only one that’s looking to connect TVs with mobile and tablet devices. The most recent version of Samsung’s Connected TV platform includes similar functionality, as does version 2 of the Google TV operating system.

Yahoo currently has more than 1.5 million active monthly users on its connected TV platform. It’s attracted more than 10,000 registered developers for the platform, who have made nearly 200 apps available on Yahoo Connected TVs. Enabling more interactive second screen apps could make the platform more compelling for developers, and more fun for users.