Mixed Signals

Intel TV (Part 2): Coming To A (lot of) Video Screen(s) Near You?

5/15/2013 12:53 PM

This week’s “Mixed Signals” follows-up on last week’s column, which was an introduction to Intel’s new venture into the world of video distribution, dubbed Intel TV (and all that that may lead to, perhaps including, for example, one day, the new 16-part miniseries by Intel TV…and I’m making this up…titled "Albert’s Aura" (itself a wonderful story of the life of Albert Einstein).
 
This week’s column tackles the best parts of a private meeting I had on April 25, 2013, at Intel HQ in Santa Clara, Calif. The one-on-one meeting was with Intel Media’s Jon Carvill.
 
Intel TV at Intel
Carvill, Intel Media's director of communications, met me the afternoon of Thursday, April 25, at Intel world HQs, in Santa Clara, Calif.
 
He began explaining some of the background of the new Intel Media service. It goes back several quarters, to when Intel hired a former BBC executive, a Dutchman named Eric Huggers. Mr. Huggers apparently looked at what Intel had done with TV in the decades before (every one of which was much less than successful), deconstructed all of it, and then started anew with the express approval of outgoing Intel CEO, Paul Ortellini.
 
Today, the project Intel TV has a staff of almost 300 people, and is growing, especially in the areas of engineering and sales/marketing.
 
Mr. Carvill noted four key components of the new Intel TV, i.e., 1) live TV; 2) on demand; 3) an end-to-end service; 4)which is delivered directly to the consumer. “We will have over-the-top/ online video, together with live TV and on demand…Intel TV is somewhere between old media and new media,” he touted. A “very clean,” new user interface, that focuses more on channels and much less on numbers on a grid, is one of the keynote points, he indicated. The Intel TV service is now in trial in multiple sites within the U.S.  Intel TV is looking to combine the “readiness of the technology” with the goal of “some new deals with the content guys,” in order to leap the two main hurdles that have faced Intel’s (and other’s) forays into TV in the past. Mr. Carvill also stated the completed status of both the 1) device/hardware; and 2) the software, leaving current efforts focused around testing.
 
Three points came up when I asked, Why would Intel want to get into the TV side of the business right now? First, Mr. Carvill noted the present-day maturity of the nation’s broadband infrastructure. By this, he meant largely that the quality of the online/OTT video image has risen to the point where Intel thinks this is a solid move into the future. Getting video to the mobile device/second screen is a big part of this progress.                  
 
Second, Intel wants to be at the forefront -- not at the back or in the pack -- of this new video telecom (r)evolution.
 
And third, as consumer consumption trends get clearer, it is also clear to Intel now that the new Intel TV will not compete with the computer. Realizing and overcoming this hurdle was deemed particularly key to the development of Intel TV.
 
Further, Intel TV will be fully funded by Intel corporate, and includes key executives that Intel has hired with backgrounds from many of the top OTT and TV companies, both globally and domestically.
 
Importantly, the new service will also be “cloud-based.”
 
An additional factor that pushed the development of Intel TV is the sophistication younger audiences have shown, and their embracing of certain key Intel TV components, such as on demand video. They also tend to be consumers that are unhappy with traditional media, Mr. Carvill noted, and are adept at using tablets and smart phones (both key components in the Intel TV silicon supply chain and logistics)  
 
What I found intriguing also was Mr. Carvill’s claim that “We will have silicon [in the set-top box] that can do a lot more.” Especially relative to those traditional set-top box providers I mentioned above – Google Motorola and Cisco-Scientific Atlanta – even just a bit of real technology and progress stands the chance of moving the Intel TV product way ahead of the existing competition (or at least relative to everyone in the traditional pay TV set-top box business, excepting maybe Dish Network and EchoStar, whose Hopper set-top box is far and away the most sophisticated set-top in the business today, even though it is tied to a single service provider like Dish).
 
Jimmy Schaeffler is a telecom author and chairman and CSO of the Carmel-by-the-Sea-based consultancy, The Carmel Group (www.carmelgroup.com).

September