Tag Archives: Intel

Intel: a new breed of ‘virtual cable operator’?

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Intel is developing an over-the-top video service for US consumers, apparently positioned as a ‘virtual cable operator’ which would sell US TV channels nationwide in the manner of a traditional pay-TV ‘bundle’.

The vehicle for the service would, according to the WSJ, be an Intel Internet-capable set-top box.

The news is intriguing for several reasons: it was not that long ago that Intel was reported to be abandoning efforts to sell its processors to manufacturers of connected TVs, a strategy it launched in 2007.

Intel did say at the time that it would maintain a presence in the set-top box market, where it has met with a measure of success through deals with Comcast in the US and Liberty Global in Europe. Those agreements have been tempered, however, by the recent loss of its high-profile deal with Google TV, which has now chosen to go with the ARM-based Marvell Armada 1500 chipset instead.

Intel’s move may, in fact, be a reaction to this.

Of greater significance, perhaps, is the notion of a ‘virtual cable operator’, which runs against the apparent trend towards distributors being disintermediated by the Internet.

In fact, farncombe was arguing two years ago that a new type of intermediary online player was required to make the OTT video sector more efficient and economic.

Farncombe postulated at the time that there were two possible models for such intermediaries:

  1. In order to differentiate themselves from their competitors, they would invest in exclusive premium content on their own account or with a partner; or
  2. They would regard their strength as lying within their role as “commodity” providers of access to multiple content providers, and would not seek to invest in the video platforms themselves or in “direct” content agreements.

Although it’s not yet clear whether Intel intends to invest in premium content, it appears to be following the first model rather than the second.

Intel exits connected TV to focus on STBs, smartphones and laptops

According to Bloomberg, Intel is abandoning plans to supply its processors to manufacturers of connected TVs, although it plans to maintain its presence in the TV set-top box market.

Bloomberg quoted an Intel spokesperson who described it as “a business decision where we’re taking those resources and applying them to corporate priorities.” Engineers in its Digital Home Group will now re-focus on tablets, smartphones and a new type of laptop Intel has dubbed the ‘Ultrabook’.

Intel’s ambitions for the connected TV market first emerged in 2007 in the shape of its ‘Canmore’ chip, later known as the CE 3100 media processor. The first iteration was demonstrated at an Intel Developers Forum in summer 2008, before becoming the enabling platform for the Yahoo Widget connected TV demos at CES 2009.

Its successor, the CE 4100, part of Intel’s low-powered Atom series, has scored some notable successes in the set-top box market – with Comcast in the US and Liberty Global in Europe, as well as with Google’s Google TV. However, the Atom series has failed to make any significant impact on manufacturers of connected TV sets.