Over the New Year’s holiday, a tantalizing rumor spread across the interwebs. Intel is preparing a new set-top box to compete with the relatively unsuccessful Google TV and the relatively successful Apple TV. Yawn: what’s so interesting about that? Word was that their ultimate goal was to make à la carte cable a reality. That’s a utopian concept of sorts where consumers choose and pay for only the channels they’re interested in. Could Intel make it a reality? No, probably not, because the content providers stand in their way. You know, the companies that make big bucks selling their channels to cable providers, who in turn charge to beam them into the homes of people who didn’t want them in the first place.
Intel isn’t currently a content company, but isn’t going into the TV box business completely from scratch. They make the chips that power early Google TVs and the Boxee box. The top-secret Intel Media project probably won’t be revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas next week, where journalists marvel at the newest and fanciest gadgets. GigaOM reports that the service will be a physical box and a streaming service with curated channels, which will also serve up video to other devices in your house.
One TV executive has told media outlets that what Intel really wants to do is license content from TV networks, helping consumers get around their cable companies and only pay for the content that they actually want in a way that’s more user-friendly than current offerings like the Boxee, Apple and Google set-top boxes, and even the Roku. The real problem is that no major content provider wants to be the first to sign an agreement and maybe jeopardize the distribution deals they currently have in place.