Intel to take on Apple, Roku with own TV box

Intel's TV box will deliver live TV, on-demand content, and will come later this year

Intel later this year will start offering a TV set-top box and service as the company tries to cash in on the fast-growing TV and home entertainment business.

The company will offer its own TV box, which will combine live TV and on-demand content, said an Intel spokesman. The box will come with a customized user interface, and will be sold direct to consumers, the spokesman said.

Intel did not announce a specific launch date for the device, except for the fact that it will come later this year. Intel has the silicon and networking technologies and has created a media group to develop the TV box and service.

The company will compete with companies like Apple, Roku, Boxee and Western Digital, which offer set-top boxes that stream movies and TVs over the Internet. Intel will also compete with TV makers like Samsung, Sony, LG, Panasonic and Sharp, which sell TVs that combine Internet and broadcast content.

Though details about Intel's TV box are still sparse, the company may also end up competing with content providers like Google, Apple, Netflix and Hulu Plus, which deliver movies, TV shows and other content over the Internet to PCs, mobile devices, TVs and gaming consoles. The Intel spokesman did not say whether Intel was partnering with those content providers.

Intel, which has a strong chip business, is transitioning from being a silicon provider to broaden its offerings and tap into new markets. Intel has tried to crack the TV market for years, but has not had success. Intel in the past delivered TV-optimized chips to Google TV set-top boxes like Logitech's Revue and Sony's TVs, which did not find wide acceptance. Most Google TV devices now run on ARM processors.

Intel in late 2011 wound down its retail TV business and reassigned engineers into other divisions to focus on Internet-based content delivery to TVs, smartphones and portable devices. Some of the company's networking and multimedia technologies are being used in set-top boxes from companies like Amino. The company also offers cable modems that combine voice, video and data capabilities to equipment makers.

Intel has created a great brand with Intel Inside, but its efforts to package products direct to consumers have fallen short, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64.

Intel has sold consumer products like USB microscopes and modems, with mixed results. The question is whether Intel has learned from its past mistakes, and the TV box will be a big test, Brookwood said.

"It's hard for component suppliers to have traction in the consumer market," Brookwood said.

Earlier Tuesday at the D: Dive Into Media conference organized by the All Things D Web site, an affiliate of the Wall Street Journal, Erik Huggers confirmed rumors about Intel's plans for television and said that the company has set up a new group called Intel Media. Huggers is corporate vice president of the group.

Creating a media group is a step in the right direction, but Intel has the painstaking job of creating a reputation as a consumer electronics company, Brookwood said.

The TV box could also provide a new market for Intel's x86 chips, which have been hurt with the slowdown in PC shipments. Intel's move into the consumer electronics mirrors a similar move earlier this year by Nvidia, which announced the Project Shield mobile gaming console. It ships later this year.

With the chip industry struggling, the consumer electronics market is where the money is, Brookwood said.

For Nvidia the jump from selling a video card to a gaming console is less complex as both are consumer products, Brookwood said. Intel could face more challenges in its jump from being a chip supplier for set-top boxes to selling its own brand of TV boxes, he said.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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