Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) reportedly has joined the list of high-tech companies planning to throw a hat into the TV ring. Several news outlets are reporting today that it is floating the idea of an Internet TV service powered by Intel equipment.
Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) are among the tech companies experimenting in the TV space. Apple makes a digital media receiver that lets users watch programming from the iStore, NetFlix, and other outlets. Google's first foray into Internet TV (which offered similar programming options) didn't take off.
Such a move is the logical next step for any business that wants to capitalize on the boom in mobile media devices such as smartphones and tablets. Companies that started out in the hardware business (like Intel and Apple) could develop devices that improve the viewing experience. Apple's new iPad offers an unbelievable display -- not that many people have actually seen it. Intel makes the fastest, most powerful chips in the world.
But so far, the TV hardware offerings have been ho-hum. The box and remote powering Google TV weren't particularly user-friendly. New devices are scheduled to be released this year.
What's really holding these companies back, according to reports, is resistance from major networks that want to protect their agreements with cable TV carriers. Like its predecessors, Intel is pitching a package of programs to be provided over the Internet. There is no mention of whether that content will be unique, developed for better Internet performance, or in any way different from the current offerings. Moreover, content creators and licensors are increasingly leery about making content too available.
Cable TV definitely still has its shortcomings, one of them being the cable itself. But it is not the lack of mobility that seems to be keeping users from flocking to GoogleTV, AppleTV, or IntelTV. It's the lack of content, as well as the potential cost. In the Boston area, Comcast/Xifinity offers a streaming TV option. Since we already have our phone, Internet, and cable with Comcast, the service is free. If Comcast were to charge us for this service, I'd drop it like a hot potato. The programming largely overlaps with the on-demand programming we already get, including movies carried on premium channels such as HBO and Showtime.
What would Intel have to develop to prompt viewers like me to subscribe? Maybe a reality show featuring engineers stranded on a desert island?