Last week I was in Singapore where I met up with the head of Intel PR for the Asia Pacific region and what was interesting was their spin for Internet TV and the move by Intel into the consumer technology market.
After admitting that Intel Vive was dead and that the concept launched 3 years by Intel was way ahead of its time he went on to reveal that the world’s largest chip manufacturer is set to launch a range of processors that will turn TV’s and notebooks into fast wireless devices while providing direct access to the Internet. “we aim to dominate in this space” said the Intel spokesperson.
He also said that most consumer devices from set top boxes to Blu ray players to flat panel TV’s will come with a processor that will allow consumers to not only access the Internet but have wireless in all these devices. But what the Intel executives failed to address is whether TV’s will crash like PC’s.
At the recent CES show in Las Vegas most flat panel TV makers showed content being streamed to a TV from a content server. But what was missing was the ability to openly access the Internet and download content.
Ironically no one could give me a logical reason as to why this was not possible. Was it that they wanted to control content deliver by taking a slice of the revenue on the way to the consumer or was it because the technology is not ready?
This argument is hard to accept in light of the fact that one can already access Internet movies from the smallest of notebooks.
Or are they concerned about TV’s crashing in the middle of movies and big sporting events?
Recently the International Tribune raised the question as to whether consumers should be allowed to buy televisions that get access to the Web. And not just thin slices of the Web allowed by a few services, but the whole cacophonous, unregulated, messy thing? And if they should, how should they? They said.
Right now several TV vendors from Sony to Panasonic to LG and Samsung are developing a new generation of TVs with full browser capability, like a personal computer. However, they appear to very reluctant to launch these TV’s onto the market.
In October, Intel released its own TV-focused chip, and numerous other semiconductor designers and manufacturers are doing the same, industry analysts said.
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“Sony’s stance is that consumers don’t want an Internet-like experience with their TVs, and we’re really not focused on bringing anything other than Internet video or widgets to our sets right now,” said Greg Belloni, a spokesman for Sony told the Herald Tribune.
“I don’t think that consumers are yet ready to access all content on the Internet on the TV,” said Bob Scaglione, senior vice president for marketing at Sharp Electronics “For now, it’s more important to deliver content consumers want on a TV and let them do their browsing on a PC.”
Analysts and industry executives say that TV manufacturers have other reasons for asserting that consumers do not want to have Internet access built into their TV. For one, profit margins in the TV industry are as tight as can be. So adding the cost of surfing technology – which could be $100 – is one potential roadblock.
Then there is the reality of opening a television up to the Internet and, potentially, the viruses and hiccups that can creep in from outside. Consumers have gotten accustomed to the occasional Blue Screen of Death on a PC, but imagine that happening during prime time, or the Rugby.
“People have very little tolerance for viruses and crashes on TVs,” said Eric Kim, senior vice president for the Digital Home Group at Intel. “If someone’s TV ever crashes, they will pack it up and bring it back to the store.”
Intel’s chip, the Intel Media Processor CE 3100, does allow full browsing. But it has been adopted by only a handful of television manufacturers, and only in a limited fashion. Manufacturers seem to prefer to keep their customers in a walled garden of selected content.
Samsung and Panasonic plan to roll out in Australia late this year TVs that provide access to news, weather and finance channels provided by Yahoo.
Overseas Sharp’s Aquos TVs already get widgets that provide traffic, weather and financial information, access to daily syndicated comic strips, and some Web-based sports and entertainment programming.
So is Intel part of the problem?
For some TV manufacturers, Intel itself may be part of the problem, said Richard Doherty, an industry analyst at Envisioneering, a consumer-electronics market research firm. Doherty said that TV manufacturers were wary of having Intel come to dominate the chip market.
“Even companies that are working with Intel have told me that they don’t want a single-supplier solution if they can help it,” Doherty said, adding that Intel’s entrance into the market had accelerated development of Internet-focused TV chips at competitors like Broadcom, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments, Freescale and NXP.
Doherty said TV manufacturers also risked losing control of the process if they did not figure out a solution soon enough. Other competitors include an array of set-top box makers including, pointedly, one deployed by cable companies that Doherty said could solve some problems.
For more on this issue see the Herald Tribune.