Intel's TV service will be on mobile devices too, exec says

Erik Huggers, head of Intel's TV business, tells CNET that the company is staying away from the Intel brand with its new service so people don't automatically think of "Intel Inside."

Intel wants to make a TV offering with more capabilities than even the Google TV pictured here. Google

Intel wants to revolutionize the TV industry , and that change won't come just through the chip giant's planned set-top box.

Erik Huggers, general manager of Intel Media, told CNET today that Intel's new Internet-based TV service also will be available on mobile devices, but he cautioned that it could take some time to expand to multiple platforms. He compared the process to the launch of the BBC's iPlayer video player, a project he oversaw while at that company.

"I absolutely and completely believe in the world of multiplatform ... anytime, anyplace, anywhere. Consumers and audiences expect that nowadays. Yes, we will make services available on other sockets, on other devices, and on other products just like at the BBC. But to get from nothing to 650 devices at the BBC literally took four years. That doesn't happen overnight, but yeah, you bet, that's completely part of the strategy."

Huggers declined to say what devices will initially work with Intel's TV service, saying the company would provide more details at a later date.

Today marked the first time Intel has made public comments about its TV strategy. Huggers described some features during the AllThingsD media conference, but he was secretive about many details, including the product's name, content partners, and pricing.

What we do know is that Intel will be introducing an Internet-based TV service and box this year that allows users to watch live TV and on-demand programming, among other offerings. Intel will be providing the hardware and services directly to consumers, and the box (powered by Intel chips, of course) will come with a camera that can detect who is in front of the TV. The service won't be cheap, and it won't get rid of bundling, but Intel says the program will be much better than what consumers are used to.

During the AllThingsD conversation, Huggers noted that Intel decided to make its own TV box instead of simply making online and mobile apps because it wanted to control the experience and because it didn't believe there was a product on the market that could do all it wanted.

"The TV user experience I get at my home in the Valley is bordering on terrible," Huggers told CNET. "It is what it is, and it stays what it is. ... We think we have an opportunity to provide a service and device that will delight audiences and a user interface far superior to anything in the market today."

Whether those features are enough to attract consumers is the big question.

Intel isn't the only company targeting the TV industry. Apple is widely believed to be working on a device, and Google has been updating its Google TVs to gain more user adoption. In addition, traditional television makers like Samsung and Sony are also expanding their smart TV offerings.

However, changing the television industry is largely an uphill battle for these companies. Apple's iPod and iTunes store upended the music industry, and cable and broadcast providers don't want the same to happen to them. They're likely to be more cautious when considering deals with tech providers.

Intel specifically faces a few hurdles. The company said its offering won't be significantly cheaper for users, so it may be tough to convince consumers to give up their cable service or Hulu and Netflix subscriptions. And while Intel says the industry isn't ready for a la carte programming, consumers definitely are. They may not be pleased with moving from one bundled service to another, no matter how well the bundles are curated.

In addition, the incorporation of a camera, which would allow more targeted advertising, could bring up some privacy issues. And while Intel is one of the best-known brands in the country, it hasn't had much experience dealing directly with consumers.

Erik Huggers, head of Intel Media, speaks at the AllThingsD media conference. Screenshot by Shara Tibken/CNET
That's part of the reason why the new TV service won't have Intel branding, like being called "Intel TV." Rather, it will have branding that's more about Intel's new, direct relationship with consumers, Huggers said.

"We think Intel is a super powerful brand," he said. "But when I say Intel, you will automatically think 'Inside.' That's what we've all been trained. Intel is a super powerful brand, but it's an ingredient brand that has powered computing for decades. What we believe is there's a real opportunity to partner with the Intel brand. The way we think about Intel Media is as 'Intel Inside and Out.'"

Huggers told CNET that the service will be constantly updated instead of remaining largely static like current cable set-top boxes. He added that Intel currently is testing the service in employees' homes.

Whether Intel wins over skeptics remains to be seen, but Intel believes the product it's launching later this year will speak for itself.

"We have assembled a team of people who have literally dedicated their careers to digital media," Huggers said. "At the end of the day, what I would say to skeptics is it's fine to be skeptical. But at least give us the benefit of the doubt and judge us on the basis of what we ship, nothing else."

 

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