The set-top box market is somewhat daunting these days. With several models already on shelves and several devices already simulating many of the functions of a set-top media box, getting a new one in play and getting interest built accordingly is a tough play, even for a major company like Intel. But Intel apparently has a better handle on the issues than some may think, and has already put a call out for some help from some pretty major names, including both Amazon and Samsung.
Intel had plans to bring out a set-top box that could deliver television online by the end of this year, but what wasn't quite so clear was that, should Intel not pull off such a feat, it may well scrap the whole process altogether. So with that in mind, it makes a particular note of sense that Intel should be turning to some other companies for help to provide both distribution for the systems or a little extra cash to keep the whole process moving.
The service, known as OnCue, was set to offer not only access to live television, but also to on-demand programming as well as programming from other sources. Intel was set to not only offer the hardware to run such services—not surprisingly powered by Intel's own chips—but also the services involved, and would have even gone so far as to include a camera to detect users sitting in front of it. Reports indicate that Intel put 300 employees on the project, and 3,000 Intel employees are, at last report, testing out at version of the service running on Intel hardware.
But with only three months left until the end of the year—and holiday shopping season about to kick up in earnest in less than that—there are some clear problems afoot. No word has emerged about any kind of content deal, and reports suggest that Time Warner Cable, along with others in the field, is actively working against Intel to keep channel owners from making deals with Internet-based television providers.
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This may well be where Samsung and Amazon come in. Samsung already has a massive smart TV lineup, and Intel may well be trying to get its hardware to run Samsung's content partner programming. Conversely, Amazon also has a massive content library on hand that Intel could run, but reports suggest that Amazon is already hard at work on its own set-top box and may well not be interested in scrapping that work for Intel's sake.
Indeed, Intel isn't the first company to discover the difficulties inherent in setting up an online television service, particularly in terms of content. Both Apple and Microsoft were recently seen having troubles in terms of getting advancements in the field out to market thanks, at least in part, to recalcitrant content providers, and that may well be the most disturbing part of the entire process. Of course, companies are also working around this—Microsoft is turning to making its own content, and if it takes off it may well make content providers think twice lest same prove ultimately irrelevant—but it's still fairly clear where the problem is for those looking to make online television services.
Only time will tell if Intel can bring out its new OnCue service, or if it will ultimately be scrapped, but it likely won't be long either way until we find out just how this all ends, and if the ending will be a happy one for Intel, for content providers, or for audiences.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi