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Intel wants to be your new cable provider

But the chipmaker could face fierce adversaries in cable and ISP providers who control bandwidth and content

June 14, 2013 10:35 AM ET

Computerworld - Intel this year plans to sell a set-top box and Internet-based streaming media service that will bundle TV channels for subscribers, but its plans will likely face hurdles from the 800-pound gorillas of the streaming media market.

In February, Erik Huggers, general manager of Intel Media, said at the All Things Digital media conference that the company is working on an "Internet television platform." The service will include on-demand programming, live television broadcasts and "catch-up TV," or program rebroadcasts.

Huggers compared Intel's as-yet-unnamed service to the BBC's iPlayer, which makes programs available up to seven days after the original broadcast on any mobile device.

"If you miss something, it's already there," he said. "I think in this market we've yet to see a proper catch-up television service."

Intel mimics Apple

Mike McGuire, a research vice president at Gartner, said that what Intel is planning is more akin to what Apple did with iTunes in that it doesn't expect to make a profit off the service itself -- at least not in the beginning.

Apple initially launched the online music service as a way to entice consumers to buy the company's hardware, and while it eventually became profitable, it didn't start out that way, McGuire said. Intel's service could likewise be an enticement for consumers to purchase tablets, laptops or other set-top boxes that use its processors.

"You can see the overall strategic value: Let's create a service that [system manufacturers] can create apps and links to for their products, and that will compete against these other content ecosystems that are forming with Apple, Google, etc.," McGuire said.

Jon Carvill, director of Intel corporate communications, said that while system manufacturers using Intel processors are a target market for the service, the primary product will be Intel hardware combined with its own service.

"You'll purchase the device retail or directly from us and have live linear television content ... all delivered via your current Internet connection -- we don't supply that," he said. "So you bring it home, plug it into your wall, plug in an HDMI cable, put in your Wi-Fi password and then you'll have television."

"It's hardware, software and services coming from us," Carvill added. "Our device is fully integrated. It's not an app."

Intel is not currently revealing any details on deals it may have made with television content providers. "We're very broadly engaged, [and] have made good progress," Carvill said.

Intel's set-top box will also have a camera with recognition technology similar to that used in Microsoft's Kinect box. However, unlike Kinect, Intel's box won't track motion. It's more about identifying users and bringing up preset configurations on the box, Carvill said.

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