Intel chases smart TV business with new chip

Intel hopes to change smart TVs with its new processor and other technologies

Intel hopes to find a foothold in the lucrative smart TV market with the introduction of a chip for TVs and set-top boxes.

The Atom CE5300 media chip, announced on Tuesday, will allow users to watch broadcasts, access the Internet and videoconference through smart TVs or set-top boxes, according to an Intel presentation. Intel also will provide a set of networking and multimedia technologies for multiple TV streams to be sent from a set-top box simultaneously to PCs, tablets and other devices.

The new chip represents a renewed effort by Intel to chase the smart TV market after the company wound down its retail digital TV business in October last year. The company has reassigned engineers from the retail TV business to the new Service Provider Division, which is focusing on Internet-based content delivery.

The CE5300 chip succeeds Intel's previous TV chips, which were built into branded consumer products such as Sony's TV sets and Logitech's Revue set-top box, which had Google TV software. Failure of the products led Intel to exit the retail TV business. This new dual-core chip is aimed at cable operators, satellite companies and telecommunication companies delivering Internet and TV services.

The Atom CE5300 chip is now available, an Intel spokeswoman said. The company already has some customers such as Amino, which will show the Freedom Live Media Gateway set-top box with the chip at the IP&TV World Forum in London from March 20 to March 22.

Intel's previous attempts to enter the TV business have failed, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64. Intel is trying multiple business models to see which one sticks and working with service providers could be provide an easier path for Intel chips to reach living rooms.

The earlier effort to put chips directly in branded products failed because Google TV software was not ready for prime time and people did not readily buy set-top boxes, Brookwood said. Service providers delivering set-top boxes to paying TV customers represent a better chip volume opportunity for Intel.

Intel also failed in the branded-product strategy because TV buyers don't consider the processor, Brookwood said. People don't buy TVs as frequently as PCs, so buyers don't run out and upgrade a TV just for a new quad-core chip.

The CE5300 chip will provide gesture control and high-definition video and gaming capabilities, according to Intel's presentation. Depending on the service provider's needs, the company hopes to provide modems, routers, tuners and voice gateways for devices to access Internet services and stream content over Internet Protocol networks. Some providers may also use set-top boxes as media servers, and the company will supply parts for that, according to the presentation.

But challenges await Intel as it tries to find a place in the TV business, Brookwood said.

"They have silicon that offers good value, but they are competing against other companies like MIPS that offer lower cost," Brookwood said.

Intel also has to contend with ARM, which is already filling Intel's shoes in the retail TV business. Marvell in January announced an ARM-based chip for televisions that will run Android and Google TV software, which could fill in for failed Intel Inside products such as the discontinued Logitech Revue.

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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Agam Shah

IDG News Service
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