Computer chip maker Intel is ready to throw a hat into the ring with other major technology companies in the fight to launch a connected TV platform that disrupts the cable TV industry. Apple and Google have both explored launching cable TV platforms but have struggled to secure the participation of a media company to provide content. Intel announced that it has overcome this important obstacle by partnering with media company Comcast.
Intel announced at the Consumer Electronics Show 2013 that future televisions containing Intel’s chips will be capable of streaming XFINITY cable programming. These TV sets will also be able to access on-demand programming without the need for a set-top box. This video gateway is made possible by a chip utilizing an Intel Atom core and Puma Silicon technology. This advancement allows the television to authenticate access with Comcast.
This announcement has significant implications for the cable TV industry. The introduction of a new generation of chips means that consumers will be able to watch television content easily on smartphones, tablets, PCs, and increasingly popular smart TVs. The new division in charge of developing this technology and working with content producers is called Intel Media. Intel Media has a board of directors separate from Intel, but includes Intel CEO Paul Otellini and Eric Free, Intel’s content director. Intel Media’s separation from the main corporation appears to do with Intel Media boss Erik Huggers. Huggers cut his teeth with BBCs iPlayer and prefers hiring outside of Intel for this venture. For this reason, little is known about the project outside of this week’s announcement, even within Intel.
The announcement at CES 2013 came as a bit of a surprise. While it’s been known that Intel has been working on Intel TV, industry observers did not think the company would be ready to make the announcement at the industry’s largest trade show. Rumors suggested a March or even late summer announcement, but Intel was eager to make a splash in hopes of transforming its image from a chip manufacturer to a platform provider.
Comcast Senior Vice President Steve Reynolds expressed enthusiasm for the partnership with Intel. “Intel has been a great partner as we work to develop a platform that supports an in-home gateway and client architecture. Intel’s powerful silicon platforms and their support for our RDK software initiative have enabled us to quickly develop a flexible platform for the delivery of our cable video services that will give customers the ability to view them on a wide range of consumer devices in the home.”
Intel’s ability to secure access to content from a broadcaster as high in profile as Comcast gives hope to Apple loyalists and Google fans that these companies will be able to make a similar deal. As recently as last week, several technology observers doubted Intel could succeed on this front when Google and Apple have struggled. On Jan. 1, 2013, “PC Perspective” wrote, “Building hardware is easy; the real challenge is in convincing content creators and owners to license the video for an ‘access anywhere’ mindset. Even Apple hasn’t been able to accomplish that and I would dare say they have more industry clout with media companies than Intel.”
Consumers are increasingly demanding an option to dump expensive monthly cable bills granting access to hundreds of channels in favor of purchasing subscriptions to individual channels. We will have to wait until Intel Media releases more information to see if this will provide consumers with that freedom, or if a traditional subscription from a cable company such as Comcast will always be required.
Do you think Intel’s new advancement in chips and partnership with Comcast is the connected TV platform solution you’ve been waiting for? Would you rather wait to see if Google or Apple presents their own alternative?