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Intel wants to be a TV company

By PETER WHITE

Published: 16 March, 2012

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A story doing the rounds this week suggests that Intel is going to enter the entertainment market for the third time - this time licensing content from the major studios and broadcasters in the US. The story doesn't ring true for a business which has never operated a US-bound businesses, but which has always tried to offer multiple hardware platforms suited for video - the ViiV PCs, the CE 3100 range of chips in the Google TV and in multiple connected TVs, and the Wireless Display (WiDi) which exports PC and tablet experiences to a TV set

But despite this, most people are taking the story seriously. Intel is known to have built a team within its Digital Home Group, called Intel Media, and although it has

If Intel wants its chips to become the center of a new generation of devices - including rivals to the iPad, then it needs core video services that it can offer across smart TVs (which it no longer powers), set top boxes (where it still holds some sway) and on tablets and handsets (where it still has plenty of ambition).

Intel is still investing quite heavily in its Media Group, and has plenty of expertise and intellectual property in video processing that it would like to capitalize on. It poached Erik Huggers, who led development of the iPlayer, from the BBC just over a year ago, and charged him with the task of marrying Intel's silicon with services and software in the multimedia arena. But what most people don't know is that it has also poached the key technical architects behind Microsoft's Mediaroom, and if they bring their experience to bear on OTT, there's no telling how radical a vision the company may unveil.

A strong signal that Intel wants to expand its set top box activities is its purchase in January 2012 of patents from Real Networks, most famous for its RealPlayer, for $120 million, along with a co-development agreement over video encoding software. The focus of this could be on tablets and smartphones, but may also include Internet connected set top boxes. Not it appears that instead of supplying these boxes to Telcos and other players, it will instead attempt to move in as an OTT player in its own right.

We're not sure that a Tiger can change its spots and while it may transpire that Intel really means to throw its weight into this, we cannot believe it is a good idea to start from the hardware only world that it has so far occupied.

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