Intel to launch virtual cable service and set-top box at CES
December 31, 2012
If you asked 100 tech pundits which company will revolutionize television, many would say Apple. Some might insist that Google or even Samsung will eventually shake things up. A name that you probably wouldn't hear, though, is Intel. Apparently the chip-maker didn't get the memo, as it's reportedly set to launch its own virtual cable service and TV set-top box.
According to Techcrunch, the service will be a hybrid of streaming services and over-the-top (streamed) traditional cable channels. It's designed for "people who want streaming TV access but don’t want to entirely cut the cable cord and lose key content like sports." The report specifically mentions Redbox's streaming service (now in beta), but Netflix and Hulu Plus could also join the party.
Intel will debut the hardware at CES 2013, with the service then rolling out on a (U.S.) city-by-city basis. Content providers have previously balked at new distribution methods that could up-end their established (and highly profitable) model. A limited roll-out is less risky, and could make them more comfortable trying something new. It also prevents stubborn regional holdouts from grinding the entire operation to a halt.
Old and new
We've already heard whispers of Intel's leap into TV. In March, the Wall Street Journal reported on the chip manufacturer's plans, describing it as a "virtual cable operator." Intel wouldn't provide internet service, but it would provide channel bundles (similar to traditional cable packages), which could be streamed over the internet.
The set-top box reportedly offers a fresh take on the DVR. If you're subscribed to a channel, you'll be able to watch every program from the last month at any time – without recording it. If Intel can't negotiate for a la carte channel subscriptions, then the improved DVR could be the service's killer feature.
Does Intel have what it takes to move television into the 21st century? Or is its plan merely the cloud version of the same old cable packages? We may get more answers during Intel's CES keynote next week.