Intel, the world’s biggest chipmaker, is working on an internet-based TV service it expects to launch this year.
The move into content and services represents a new departure for the company, but reflects how the old guard of the PC world is following Apple’s successful vertical model of providing complete packages of hardware, software and services.
Erik Huggers, head of a secretive Intel Media division, revealed on Tuesday to the D: Dive Into Media conference being held near Los Angeles that it would sell a set-top box directly to consumers.
“For the first time, we will deliver a new consumer electronics product under a new brand,” he said.
It would be an Intel-powered device. “We’re working with the entire industry to figure out how we get live TV to consumers over the internet,” he said.
Mr Huggers added that the box would offer on-demand content and apps as well, and feature a built-in camera able to detect people in a room and help deliver personalised programming and advertising.
The plans would put Intel in direct competition with cable and satellite operators in the US. But Mr Huggers said it would not offer “a la carte” programming – a disruptive move threatened by internet TV where consumers could pick and choose individual channels, rather than having to buy the bundles offered by operators.
Microsoft, Intel’s longtime partner in the PC world, has been offering live and on-demand TV services on its Xbox 360 games console and is extending the service to work with tablets and phones running its Windows operating system.
Google is developing its Google TV interface and content for TVs and set-top boxes, while Apple is long rumoured to have been planning a TV venture.
Intel Media’s plans were first reported nearly a year ago and talks had been under way with media companies for several months before that, suggesting Intel has made slow progress in trying to win support for its idea from movie studios and broadcasters.
Intel Media was formed in October 2011 in a change of tack, when Mr Huggers’ Digital Home Group was dissolved. At the time, Intel had decided to stop pursuing the smart TV market as a target for its Atom microprocessors.
Its chips were in the first Google TV products, which failed to make a major impact.
Intel said it would focus on media processor chips for gateway and Internet Protocol set-top boxes instead.
Mr Huggers came to Intel from the BBC, where he was director of its future media and technology business, and ushered in its iPlayer technology for accessing programming online. He is a fan of the Freebox, an IP TV set-top box launched successfully in France using Intel’s Atom processor.
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