Imagine if Comcast, Dish Network or Time Warner started making superconductors. That would be a surprising and somewhat awkward announcement. Kind of like Intel, the world's biggest maker of computer chips, wading into the world of home-delivered entertainment content.
But the latter case will soon be a reality, as the tech giant jumps into the growing arena for Internet-based entertainment. In an interview at All Things D's Dive Into Media conference on Tuesday in Dana Point, Calif., Intel's vice president, Erik Huggers, confirmed rumors that began around the time of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month.
Huggers now says that Intel will market a set-top box later this year that will compete with Apple TV, Google TV and Roku to stream live and on-demand content from the Internet to the small screen. Intel is in negotiation with content partners for the device, he said, while declining to comment on price and availability. He also said the device would have a camera as an interface, creating personalized content possibilities.
Earlier reports have said that Intel would offer consumers a chance to order channels a la carte rather than in bundles, as sold by the major cable providers. Huggers said that would not be the case, but said he hoped to offer better bundles.
"It's not a value play, it's a quality play where we'll create a superior experience for the end user," said Huggers, as quoted by Reuters.
Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel was founded in 1968 by Gordon Moore (known for Moore's Law of transistor capacity) and Robert Noyce. The company's previous expansions have included an unsuccessful solar power start-up in 2008 and a tablet and wireless division in 2011.
So can this bold new digital journey into living rooms have a shot?
"Like any major investment, it isn't without risk but, Intel may be able to make a difference here in ways other major players, including Apple, Google and Amazon haven't," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
'Heft and Presence'
"All three are hugely ambitious but all have affected traditional media-related markets -- Apple in music, Google in advertising and Amazon in publishing -- in ways that discomfit many traditional players. Intel isn't carrying any such baggage but the company has enough heft and presence to be taken seriously."
King noted that Huggers was previously director of the BBC's Future Media and Technology and was responsible for the network's Online, iPlayer, Mobile and Red Button services.
"In other words, Intel has chosen a solid, even inspired leader for the new division," King told us.
With growing alternatives to broadcast and cable, such as Netflix, fueling restlessness among viewers, he added, "If Intel plays its cards right and develops the right partnerships, the company could place itself directly at the center of a revolution in online media delivery services."