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Cable Technology Feature Article

February 13, 2013

2013: The Year of Intel's Television Ambitions

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

There were stirrings in the early going of this year that Intel (News - Alert) may have been looking to get into television, but recently, those initial stirrings were confirmed, and by the end of the year, Intel will not only be offering a paid video service but will also offer up a new kind of set-top box for the consumer market.

Specifics for the new device—and the new service—were somewhat short on the ground, but the current word still managed to leak out a few choice details. Most came from a recent All Things D-owned conference in which Erik Huggers, the head of a new group called Intel Media, took some questions about the service and the box in question.

Those hoping that Intel would be the first to break the a la carte content logjam will be disappointed here, as Intel doesn't expect to have that capability. However, Huggers did mention the possibility of “more attractive” content bundles, perhaps being able to offer more than the current few tiers of content offered by the current cable and satellite markets. Pricing and names weren't announced—or even mentioned—but Huggers did suggest that, while the pricing wouldn't be much lower than current cable providers, it would be a better overall experience than cable was currently offering.

As for the box itself, Huggers pointed toward a new kind of design, complete with consumer-facing camera to authenticate users, and giving rise to possibilities like watching programming together with users that weren't in the room at the time. There was also word about an improved user interface that would improve on current programming guides.

Overall, Intel's service doesn't necessarily look to be head and shoulders above the competition so much as it looks to be the next step in what should really have been a process of continuous improvement all along. It would be worth noting, especially if Intel could manage the bundling services into themed packs or the like, like a sports-lover's package, comedy package or kids' package. The thought of a consumer-facing camera may leave some unnerved, but there's also some potential there for an improvement to value.

Intel's going to have its work cut out for it, though, especially given the sheer number of alternatives facing consumers. With streaming content available from Netflix and Amazon and a host of others, and several cable and satellite providers in play, for Intel to go for the higher end of the spectrum on costs means they're going to have to bring a service that's hard to pass up, or the combination of the soft economy and sheer inertia will keep many users away from Intel.

While many of the specifics on Intel's offering are still under wraps, there are certainly enough possibilities available to make this a decidedly compelling play. It's going to be exciting to see what Intel finally brings out when it goes live with this one, and hopefully, it will at least represent a step up from the current batch of cable offerings.

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