May 10, 2010, 1:17 PM — The modern big-screen, high-definition television is not only taking on the PC for basic Web access. It's now becoming a social networking device serving Twitter and Facebook users -- as they watch TV.
Verizon FiOS TV, which has 3 million subscribers in 16 states, has steadily pushed out new applications over the past year, and most recently the ability for a user to interact with friends on Twitter while also watching a split-screen display with sports, movies or other content such as music and video.
Verizon showed off the capability to reporters at a demonstration center in Waltham, Mass., on Thursday. The carrier is in a race with AT&T's U-Verse TV service, but also a variety of traditional cable TV companies.
FiOS TV's social networking service is an example of how Internet connections, and the content on the Web, is being pushed into new directions. Not only is Verizon supporting the large TV format, but small devices, including the iPhone , that can interact with TVs.
Even though Verizon has not been able to sell the iPhone (which is exclusive in the U.S. to AT&T ), it has come up with an Apple App Store application to turn an iPhone into a remote control device for its Verizon FiOS TV service. There is a similar application for the Motorola Droid Android device as well, said Joseph Ambeault, direct of consumer product development for video at Verizon.
Users can tweet using their remote control apps on their smartphones, or by using the universal remote that comes with the FiOS TV service.
So far, Verizon's service is not supporting a keyboard to use with the set-top box that enables the service, but the remote has pre-set "canned" comments that a user can execute when in a Twitter or Facebook session, Ambeault said.
Even with that level of complexity, users like the social networking capability via TV, more than Verizon -- or Twitter -- initially expected, Ambeault noted.
Users like to watch a play in a baseball or football game, then comment with friends, or do the same with a movie or TV show they have in common, Verizon has found. "For some reason, the tweets you see during an awards show are the most outrageous, like, 'Look at what's she is wearing,'" he said.