Android TV gives Intel a new shot at the market after previous failures

The partnership with Google makes sense, analysts say, and allows Intel to enter the TV market without suppling content

Intel is chasing the lucrative TV market once again by aligning with Google on Android TV despite multiple failed attempts in the past few years.

Much like the existing Google TV, Android TV is an interactive entertainment platform for smart TVs, set-top boxes and other devices. It will initially be in TVs from Sony and Sharp, and will also work with Google's $35 Chromecast device, through which videos can be wirelessly streamed from mobile devices to TVs.

Google and Intel will "work together to bring this platform and experience to market," Intel said in a statement. An Intel spokeswoman said more details about the partnership will be shared at a later date.

It is likely that Intel will supply chips for TVs, set-top boxes and devices like Chromecast, analysts said. The goal is to put as many Intel chips as possible in more consumer electronics, which is a hot market right now.

"You've got to be in consumer electronics, that's where everything is going on," said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

The partnership is perhaps the best way for Intel to attack the TV market following previous failures, analysts said. Intel was planning its own cloud-based TV service called OnCue, but sold those assets to Verizon Communications for an undisclosed sum in January. Intel in 2009 announced its intent to get into the TV market with the CE4100 chip, and went on to release chips for TVs and set-top boxes with Google TV software. However, Intel exited that market in late 2011 and the void was ultimately filled by Marvell, which supplied ARM chips for Google TV devices. Intel also sells gateway chips for content delivery via cable networks.

Intel took on more than it could handle with its last multimillion dollar effort to start its own TV service, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64.

Looking back on Intel's last failed TV venture, "their big problem wasn't technology," Brookwood said. "It was lining up content providers."

Google TV hasn't been a resounding success either, but Android TV provides Intel an easier path to get to TVs without worrying about assembling content, Brookwood said.

Intel is gunning for the digital home and TVs are an essential part of the mix, in addition to mobile devices and PCs, said McGregor.

"Anyone and everyone's hopping on that bandwagon," he said.

Intel's learned from its previous failure and wants to be an enabler instead of a provider, McGregor said.

But Intel faces competition from ARM and MIPS, which are being used in most TVs and set-top boxes. Android TV, based on the Android L OS, will also work with those chip architectures. Nvidia, which makes ARM chips, said its Tegra K1 chip will go into Android TVs.

ARM and MIPS have an early-mover advantage and have the capabilities to deliver a strong TV service, McGregor said.

TV is changing with more mobile devices in the mix, which would give ARM an advantage. But with the PC industry under attack and mobile chip shipments yet to take off, Intel is experimenting in adjacent markets like wearables, the Internet of Things, and now, TVs, McGregor said.

"Intel's perhaps saying, let's just sell more chips," McGregor said.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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