Intel Goes After Set-Top Box Market

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One of the worst-kept secrets in the technology world was finally confirmed today. Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) is building an Internet TV set-top box that it says will launch by the end of this year. Intel has big plans for its Internet TV - but then which company doesn't.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) both have Internet TV boxes out there already, as do smaller makers like Roku, Boxee, as well as Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) and Vizio, both of which use Google's technology. Hardware and software are not the problem.

The problem is content. Intel and all the others face reluctant entertainment and pay TV industries that either do not want to license new streaming content except at very high fees (studios) or do not want to offer a la carte programming to subscribers (pay TV). The vice-president of Intel's new Intel Media group told conference audience today, " We're working with the entire industry to figure out how we get live TV to consumers over the Internet."

The TV and movie studios do not want to give away the farm the way the music business did to Apple iTunes. Whether or not Intel and its deep pockets can make a substantial difference here remains to be seen. Rather than keep their movies and programming locked in a vault, the production companies should be trying to forge partnerships with the techie crowd and make their content available at reasonable prices to consumers.

And the pay TV cable and satellite providers are not going to hide behind their bundling practices forever either. But Intel is going to have to break through to these guys as well

If any of this were easy, someone would already be doing it. And one has to wonder about Intel's vice-president who wants to get "live TV to consumers over the Internet." The reason to make programming available on the Internet is not so people get to choose their transmission scheme. Who cares?

People want to watch their favorite shows and movies when it's convenient for them, not the pay TV channels or the broadcast networks. About the only things people want to watch live are sports and award shows. The next episode of "Downton Abbey" or "CSI" can be watched anytime.

Intel probably has no better chance at getting all the various players to agree on an Internet TV scheme than does Apple or Google or anyone else. Still, it's nice to think they might be able to do it.

Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Entertainment, Internet, Technology Companies, TV Tagged: AAPL, GOOG, INTC, SNE