Monday, December 31, 2012

Intel TV: use a 'Cloud DVR,' subscribe by channel or even by show

For the past year or so, Intel has been rumored to be quietly been working on a set-top box. "Intel TV" is coming in 2013, according to a Sunday report, and it's possible it could be better than any similar service currently offered by Apple, Google or Microsoft today.

It's still early, though. While Intel is expected to publicly announce the project the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, Intel TV is not heading for your living room, unless you are in a limited beta expected to roll out in March.

Intel TV could succeed by offering something customers been asking for, but have not seen any movement on: the ability to subscribe to content on a per-channel basis, and perhaps even on a per-show basis. It's something cable customers have wanted for some time, as many of the channels that are packaged and paid for in service offerings are often wasted, and never watched by a customer.

In addition, the channels will be delivered on a broadband-agnostic basis, meaning you won't be required to have a certain broadband provider (Microsoft Mediaroom, for example, requires AT&T broadband, and the Xbox has limited offerings for Comcast and FiOS customers).

Leveraging the cloud, Intel intends to give customers the ability to use what will be called a “Cloud DVR”, which will allow users to watch a past TV show at any time, sans the requirement to record and store it on their local DVR's hard drive. The only limitations will be that the customer must subscribe to the channel, and the replay facility will cover only a month's worth of programming, still amazingly generous.

As you'd expect, customers will be able to pause live TV, and rewind shows in progress.

There are though, some who like to record an entire season of a show and watch it all at once. Reasons behind this could be a lack of time, children who must be absent due to mature programming, etc. Whether or not the Intel "Cloud DVR" will allow for this scenario is unclear.

Just as with HD-DVD, Intel needs to get content in order to succeed with its venture. In the end, HD-DVD failed when studios chose Blu-ray. If Intel can't get sufficient content for its service, it will fail as well, and both Reuters and the Wall Street Journal noted that stumbling block when they covered Intel's plans earlier this year.

In order to circumvent the issue, Intel will forgo rolling out the service nationally, all at once. The launch will happen on a city-by-city basis so that Intel has more flexibility in negotiating licensing with (most likely) reluctant content providers.

Hardware-wise, Intel has an advantage. The company has been providing chips for set top boxes for years, and since it is used to wagering billions on a chip's design, it has allocated a budget significantly larger than rivals Apple or Google.

According to Forbes, because of this, Intel has managed to negotiate the licensing deals it requires. Intel is expected to unveil the first version of its set-top box at its CES event on Jan. 7.

There is, of course, an 800-pound gorilla expected later next year: Apple TV. We don't mean the current set-top box that Apple ships, but a full-fledged HDTV. Intel needs to get its set-top box into the hands of consumers months before Apple TV is announced, much less launched, or ravenous Apple fans may derail Intel TV.

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