NEW YORK--Intel Corp’s naked ambition to move into the American living room is hardly a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention. But Intel’s new plan--sketched out this week by Erik Huggers, the head of Intel Media--apparently goes far beyond what was originally viewed as just another Google TV-like Internet television platform.
Intel's plan involves not just the end-user consumer box but the service business. The company's goal, according to Huggers, is to launch in 2013 a new Internet-based TV service and box, designed to offer both “live TV” and “catch-up TV” as one coherent and seamless experience.
While declining to reveal a name for the service, Huggers, speaking at a media conference this week, called it “a proper TV experience.” It will be a much easier, one-input device experience, compared to today’s Internet TV, which often involves a lot of “hard work” on the part of users, Huggers said, since “viewers need to cobble together” a cable set-top (for watching live TV), turning on a DVR (to search for recorded programs) and setting up Roku (to watch Internet TV).
“Not many… no, nobody … has cracked this yet,” Huggers said.
Just as broadcast TV has evolved from free-to-air to cable, satellite and telcos, Huggers hopes Intel’s new Internet TV service will be viewed as “a new distribution platform” that programmers will embrace.
By “catch-up TV,” Huggers means something similar to BBC’s iPlayer, an Internet TV and radio service. BBC, Huggers' previous employer, offers viewers an opportunity to catch up on the last seven days of BBC TV and radio programs without using a DVR. These programs are stored in the cloud and made available on demand.
With the whole TV viewing experience rapidly moving to a multi-platform world, “Intel has a narrowing time window” for this [Internet TV service and special box for it], explained Rick Doherty of director of Envisioneering Group. “The majority of the IT universe now watches video on pads, PCs and TVs.”
I continue to be baffled by the difficulty companies have in offering unfettered access to Internet TV on their large screen TV sets. It seems such a simple problem to solve, and we keep being told that "it hasn't been cracked yet." (Thank goodness I didn't know it hadn't been cracked. Allowed me to solve the problem without the anxiety that it couldn't be done!)
Not sure why Intel thinks it needs to become a copycat cable system, content tiers and all, instead of focusing its efforts on making a good Internet TV STB. Or for that matter, marketing their solution to the CE vendors, to embed in TV sets.
It seems to me that banking on the blessing of the TV content owners, to allow Intel to become another cable-like service, is just asking for problems. And they lose me as a customer right away.
Bert, I don't know why you're such a skeptic about the likelihood of Intel taking over the field of content distribution, I mean look how devastatingly successful they were piling billions into developing XScale technology then using it to take over the consumer side of the telecom industry! (Oops, they sold that disaster to Marvell and left with their tail between their legs in utter defeat didn't they? Pride going before the fall part two? Hmm...)
@Bert22306: "Not sure why Intel thinks it needs to become a copycat cable system, content tiers and all, instead of focusing its efforts on making a good Internet TV STB. Or for that matter, marketing their solution to the CE vendors, to embed in TV sets."
Because Intel is a hardware maker, and wants to sell stuff that will have "Intel Inside". TV requires hardware, as does distribution of content. Intel wants as big a piece of that market as they can get.
Since the necessary work can be done on ARM, MIPS and other architectures, good luck to them in getting that market share.
That's just it, iniewski, I don't need to start my own business, to make a thoroughly useful TV STB for unfettered Internet TV access! Dell and other companies have already achieved that.
It might take a tiny bit more effort to set it up than a purpose-built TV Internet STB might, and it costs more, because I use a full-fledged PC. However the job is a total no-brainer.
As to content, rights to content, and what have you, there are only about a zillion portals aready available on the Internet for TV shows and movies online. So let those portals, including the popular ones like Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and Hulu Plus, maybe iTunes, the portals run by each TV network, the BBC, etc. etc. etc. fight it out for any content that is particularly hard to get.
Why on earth would anyone expect Intel, basically a hardware company, to have any better luck at getting rights to difficult content than the numerous portals out there that already exist?
I'm simply saying, a purpose-built TV STB for Internet TV access is not a difficult job. Content rights are an entirely different discussion, for entirely different businesses, some of which are well known, others seem to pop up daily.
Intel should not make a good Internet TV STB contingent on issues it basically has no background or expertise in.
The tough nut to crack is the unbundling of Content contracts which are held by Comcast (NBC), Time Warner, Disney (ESPN) and the like.
To unbunde ESPN HD from the rest of Disney is costly. If you wanted just ESPN and nothing else, would you as a consumer be willing to pay $45 just for ESPN?
Again, while there is a ton of content available online already, although mostly invisible to "connected TV" products available today (because these products are unreasonably limited by design), there may be some content, like perhaps ESPN, that is hard to get online.
If the likes of abc.com, or netflix.com, or hulu plus, or iTunes, are having a hard time getting access to THAT particual content, then what makes anyone think that Intel, Dell, or Chrysler, or Ford would have better luck?
I think everyone is mixing up apples and oranges. One problem is rights to certain content that some people might want. Mostly, ESPN, is my guess. The other issue is decent hardware to allow large screen TVs to access Internet TV content.
Decent hardware doesn't exist, unless you make your own with a PC or maybe a game console. Intel can easily sove that.
The contents rights issue is separate. No need to conflate the two discussions, just because so many cable TV addicts have become used to the distribution network renting out its own proprietary hardware. That's an anomaly tha hopefully the Internet will kill in a hurry. But not if we continue to have hardware and content distribution colluding.
Note: 3 years ago Intel and Google (with Sony and Logitech) already built some nice boxes capable of receiving OTT content like Hulu, abc.com, fox.com, Netflix, Amazon etc... Re: GoogleTV… but then all the free sites blocked the box from access (but there were ways around that for most of the sites). Intel Media is about getting the premium content that is only available from Comcast, Time Warner, DirecTV, Dish etc… and delivering it to the end consumer (a service model that is very expensive to get into). And, you are correct, Intel did not have the expertise in this area (past tense), which is why Erik (the former director of BBC) strongly points out that Intel (Erik) brought in that expertise from outside of Intel for this Job. I don’t think there was ever any doubt about Intel’s engineering abilities to build the technology (if there was, clearly someone does not understand the amount of engineering capability Intel has).
Yes, I know about GoogleTV. There is a good reason for that blocking.
The content owners don't want to have to rely on one ubisuitous search engine for their future success. Why should they? Search engines can make or break sites.
And that's the whole point. With existing PC technology, there is no reason why the entire Internet TV universe should have to rely on one solution. Content owners hold most of the cards here, because they have the stuff everyone wants. So you don't deliberately create problems for them unnecessarily.
I can find oodles of TV content portals with Webcrawler, Bing, Yahoo, or anything else. Why should the TV STB become beholden to just Google?
Bert, you are right about the hardware. As you know from personal experience, building a very capable HTPC is trivial -- you can even put it in a nice case that looks like a piece of A/V gear, and there are plenty of usable UIs available for the 10-foot experience.
But just as with a Roku box, Apple TV or any of these other STB replacements, eliminating the monthly fee for renting the cable company's proprietary hardware does not eliminate the monthly fees for content.
As every cord-cutter knows, you can save some money if you're willing to subscribe to a couple of pay services (Netflix, HuluPlus, etc.) and willing to navigate to the network sites, but you're still going to be giving something up -- specifically, nearly anything that's live, especially live sports.
I agree we don't need to have hardware colluding with content distribution, but this isn't really a hardware problem as much as it is a business model problem -- one that involves those aforementioned contracts with the likes of Viacom, Disney & Comcast -- and all the issues related to channel tiers vs. a la carte.
Intel cannot solve that problem. No hardware company can. And neither can your HTPC.
We are in TOTAL agreement, Frank. As you said, the content rights issue is separate, and unlikely that a hardware companey can come to grips with it.
Since so much content IS already available online, for free or for pay, I will assume here that the main thing people are obsessing over is *live ESPN content*.
So here's the thing. If Disney is unwilling to make live ESPN content available at their very own abc.com site, e.g. with subscription, then what leads anyone to think that, oh, say Coca Cola, would fare any better at getting rights to that content?
Burt, BTW, if you would like to have a good STB made with Intel silicon inside, I would suggest you take a look at Xfinity X1 service: http://xfinity.comcast.net/x1/
Or if in Europe, check out Liberty Global offerings: http://www.lgi.com/horizon.html
The delivery of the content is simple. The problem is the various licensing and proprietary locks every link in the delivery chain. The interest in this is based upon the changing dynamics of what a PC will be used for in a house. The TV will remain a center point for a family, even those that use multiple screens to watch content. Intel is not the only company working on this type of hardware. We will have in production in April a very small PC that sits on top of the TV, with a camera built-in.
I learned earlier this week (from Google's presentation in the Silicon Valley Comsoc, Rick Merritt will be soon writing about this) that one needs 1Gb connection to the home in order to see 4K video and the compression offered by variant of H.264 has already been solved, reinforcing what @Bert22306 is saying -he is spot on, Intel should rather focus its attention on a good set top box for the next generation video. Incidentally, at the event cited above, Google's product manager for its Kansas city project passed around a content delivery box that has 1000BaseT as well as CoAx interfaces so some one has already SOLVED the 4K video delivery probem!
Divakar, Intel already has Puma6 silicon that can deliver 1Gbps Downstream (and 320Mbps upstream) cable modem speeds to the home... Plenty of performance for multiple channels of 4K video.
@iSteve: "Divakar, Intel already has Puma6 silicon that can deliver 1Gbps Downstream (and 320Mbps upstream) cable modem speeds to the home..."
So do others, I believe. But I connect to an ISP. They may install that hardware and be *able* to offer me 1GB down/320Mbps up. The question is what they will want to charge me for that bandwidth.
At present, that's likely to be "More than I want to pay".
Of course that is a business decision based on the MSO's cost of back haul and infrastructure vs. # of subscribers utilizing the bandwidth.
I'm really just addressing the above comments about how easy it should be to technically unbundle content, and build a STB that looks good and performs well and can handle all of the future needs. Technically, all that is done and ready to go (nothing left for the Intel engineering side to do). For the service side, weather it be Comcast Xfinity X1, Google TV, Apple TV, Amazon or Intel Media, it is about providing the infrastructure and dealing with content contract negoitations. The tech is ready. But the $$ cost of the remaining pieces such that you can provide a great service to the consumer at a reasonable price is what is left to be done.
@iSteve: thank you for the links on Puma6... not sure if that is the Silicon used in Google's boxes.
@DMcCunney: don't hold your breath for affordable high speed internet in US! From an OECD study, Japan has the highest advertized bandwidth (~150Mb/s) whereas US was in the bottom (3rd from the bottom to be precise, just above Egypt!). US also had the highest pricing from that study.
The US is huge and spread out, so offering very high speed broadband to everyone becomes difficult. However the good news is, a 2 Mb/s downlink speed is totally adequate for good quality TV, and may be even better when H.265 compression rolls out.
We've seen the Verizon annoncement that it never planned FiOS roll-out to the whole country, for instance. Too bad. FiOS offers high data rates, like 100 Mb/s down and 50 Mb/s up.
All this is very nice but it needs to be looked at in terms of price and family income.
It is not uncommon for a family to presently pay $150 for cable and internet connections. Then the cellular phone bill can be $150. The $3600 a year is a pretty bug chunk out of a family income.
The Valley is littered with the wreckage of hardware companies thinking that they could make money utilizing Hollywood. Content companies will announce 'partnerships' and 'relationships' with Intel to be sure. In the end, all that will have happened is that Intel cash ends up on someone else's bank account.
Apple was successful with music, OK. But Intel is no Apple.
For that matter, Apple is no Apple either, when it comes to TV.
It seems to me that all manner of people, from the production studios to CE vendors, to pundits and certainly also many consumers, are having a really difficult time thinking outside the stale old box, when it comes to topics of TV.
This doesn't apply all over the world, but in the US, ever since ~1980 or so, a whole lot of consumers became addicted to cable TV. Addicted to the point that they now assume TV content and the distribution of that TV content must forever be tied to dedicated and inseparable hardware. The assumption going in is that the box on your TV set is essential, is proprietary, and it is what allows you access to the content. Apple and Intel are both trying to keep that old model alive. Our box gives you content rights.
But the IETF developed this obsessively open medium called the Internet. The standards are available free of charge, even. Those old models of dedicated, proprietary hardware tied to your rights to the content are obsolete and are far better left that way. Its a travesty to force-fit those olds ideas to the Internet.
Consumers have proved to be quite adept at using the Internet for just about everything. The younger generation is having little trouble treating TV content like any other Internet content, viewing it on any manner of device. The Hollywood studios are not blind to this, are offering their content more and more on Internet sites, but are slow at opening the floodgates completely. What we don't need is for hardware companies, including CE companies, working in (apparent) collusion with the studios, to try to yank us back to 1980. Or similarly, Internet TV boxes so deliberately crippled that people can't do without their old cable hookup.
TV simplification is urgently needed. Navigating the menus, requesting downloads on your computer and then returning to the TV to view them (Netflix), and trying to remember the constantly changing channel numbers are not tasks we should be burdened with. If IP addresses can access every Internet device in the universe, why can't we have a simple means to access TV content instantly (a virtual channel number) and leave all the content mapping to a computer with nothing better to do? A simple content directory would also be an obvious development ... TV-pedia anyone?
Streaming is the answer, DrQuine. Why bother downloading first? All of the major, minor, and utterly obscure portals I've tried support streaming. And all have reasonably to very intuitive UIs.
All you need to do is set up a few bookmarks (favorites) on your browser. Each bookmark will typically open a portal for you, with all manner of well organized content. If you insist, you can label these favorites with a "channel number" instead of a name, although that would be counter-productive very quickly.
Every step increase in the volume of choice brings with it necessarily new navigation tools. A simple numbered knob was enough originally, when a TV market had maybe 3 to 12 channel choices. Cable systems augmented channel numbers with proprietary channel guides, as choice climbed to maybe 120-150 channels. Now we're way beyond any such walled-in net and its still limited choice.
So, you simply use the tools developed for Internet level of choice volumes. Browsers, search engines, bookmarks, streaming media.
How long does it take you to get to your favorite online newspaper? It should take no longer to get to your favorite online TV shows.
For my part I like the idea of "catch-up" viewing. The rigid single-showing schedule of popular TV erks me to no end, especially with sports events. (Yeah, NFL channel I mean you. If any of your marketers are reading the answer is NO. As in 'NO I would rather NOT watch your gaggle of overpaid, over-ego'd ex-athletes and other know-nothings talk about the game.' JUST REPLAY THE FRIGGIN' GAMES - ALL OF THEM, NOT JUST TWO! ALL WEEK LONG!)
But Bert, after reading your many well-informed comments you've opened my mind to looking beyond merely working around the limitations of the set-top box. Now I'm thinking about how I can save $120 bucks a month alltogether.
This doesn't seem like a big deal to me. There are a lot of online TV companies that don't require anything, not even registration. My boys and I have been sitting and watching all the football matches online. The only thing that was still tangible was the [url=http://www.russettsouthwest.com/heating-cooling-services/air-conditioning-tucson/]air conditioning Tucson[/url] remote.
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