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.”
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
@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.
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: "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".
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