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Intel gets into the Comcast product catalog – At Broadcom’s expense?

While Motorola’s announcements at the Cable Show in Chicago this week shows that it has come alive and is hell-bent on keeping its major cable custome

By PETER WHITE

Published: 16 June, 2011

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While Motorola’s announcements at the Cable Show in Chicago this week shows that it has come alive and is hell-bent on keeping its major cable customers, in Comcast and Time Warner Cable (see separate story), the emergence of an Intel chip in an announced set top box at Comcast, must set Broadcom firmly back on its heels and send the shivers up Motorola as well.

We have known for a year that the world’s largest set top player the UK’s Pace, was building an experimental hybrid set top for Comcast based on an Intel CE chip and that went on trial at Comcast in Augusta as part of the Comcast Xfinity set of OTT and TV Everywhere services. Now that device is to be launched incorporating a DVR with tru2way (OCAP) and IP capabilities – so it has the capability to offer IP content over a walled garden using tru2way or from the web itself or from cable QAM.

The service will allow customers to search and select from tens of thousands of TV shows and movies in a personalized TV viewing experience, the company says.

Mike Pulli, President, Pace Americas, said: "Comcast has a track record of delivering the unexpected and taking TV services to a whole new level. We are very proud that Comcast has chosen to partner with Pace on this extraordinary project."

It looks to us like Motorola has been working with Comcast on one part of the equation, perhaps the more near term part, getting existing customers able to watch cable TV on their tablets, while Pace is working on the further away project of delivering TV entirely over a broadband line. It may well prepare the way to Comcast breaking out of its own cable footprint, something that all analysts believe will happen one day, but which Comcast has never publicly addressed. Perhaps it’s something Comcast CEO Brian Roberts will address on Thursday in a speech at the Cable Show in Chicago.

The Pace set-top box features an architecture that leverages Comcast's hybrid fiber coax network and DOCSIS 3.0 to deliver a new user guide and user experience. The new device also includes DVR capabilities with a high capacity hard drive.

But the most worrying thing for Broadcom, which to date has dominated set tops in the US, is the fact that this box will either continue to use the Pentium based CE3100, as was used in the trial, or one of its more recent cousins, such as the CE 4200 or 4100 from the Atom range of Intel processors. Already Google TV has been based on the Intel CE range, and in Europe Amino has a famous win at Telecom Italia for a hybrid retail device based on it and French ISP Free also uses the chip in its Freebox and it is also used in the Bouygues Telecom Bbox system. The fact that Technicolor is also working on an Intel CE device for DirecTV is no secret, and both Motorola and Broadcom have plenty to lose from any wide scale uptake of Intel devices within Comcast.

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