Network-connected televisions will soon become mainstream. Nearly half the flat panel displays sold in 2013 will have a network port, according to new forecasts from ABI Research. By then, widgets or applications will be more prevalent on the television screen. Meanwhile Google is set to enter the market with software known as Dragonpoint to power television devices and displays.

In a new study on Internet-Connected TVs, ABI Research estimates that around one in five flat panel televisions shipping in 2010 will have a network port. That will rise to 46% in 2013.

Among the applications that such displays will provide will be media guides and more tightly integrated social features.

Many consumer electronics companies are supporting applications or widgets in their screens, allowing viewers to access a variety of services delivered over the internet, including video ranging from YouTube clips to movies via Netflix.

Wireless Wi-Fi network connections will also become more prevalent. “Wi-Fi swept through the computing market, driven by the need to access and share broadband connectivity,” said Frank Dickson, vice president of research at In-Stat. “The ubiquitous adoption of Wi-Fi in consumer electronics is Wi-Fi’s manifest destiny.”

Shipments of digital televisions with Wi-Fi will grow more than ten-fold to over 60 million units in 2014, by which time there will be over 3 billion Wi-Fi products in the market, led by sales of mobile devices.

Wired connections will remain more reliable for video networks within the home, with many different ways of distributing data over coaxial cables and mains wiring, including MoCA,, HomePNA and Powerline.

A recent report on The US Market for Web-Based TV Widgets and Applications from In-Stat projects shipments of web-enabled consumer electronics devices that support television applications will grow from 14.6 million in 2010 to 83.4 million by 2014.

That will result in an estimated 136 million such devices installed in the United States, with nearly 60 million households having at least one product that supports television applications. By then the national market for such applications could be worth over $1.7 billion a year.

“Our primary research shows consumers already have a moderate interest in TV Widgets,” said In-Stat analyst Keith Nissen. The market is currently fragmented across many different platforms, but “an innovative web-enabled CE device and service from a company like Google or Apple could truly galvanize the market, much as the iPhone transformed the mobile telephony market”.

Google is apparently poised to introduce a version of the Linux-based Android operating system it developed for mobile phones. Known as Dragonpoint, perhaps a play on a “drag and point” interface, it is expected to be used by Sony in a new range of Bravia televisions powered by Intel Atom processors.

Apple has so far regarded its role in television as a “hobby” limited to its Apple TV box connected to iTunes. Following the success of the iPhone and the iPad, some industry observers anticipate Apple to make a more concerted attempt to address the living room screen.

The implications for the television industry of network-connected high-definition displays with processors as powerful as personal computers are profound. They will open up the living room screen to digital distribution that could bypass broadcasters and traditional television platform operators. While viewers will still turn to television for entertainment, informitv expects revenues to move increasingly online.