Intel Wants Its Web TV

Hollywood and Silicon Valley just don't get along. Aside from rare exceptions such as Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) CEO Steve Jobs, who parlayed his top spot at Pixar into a seat on the Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) board, the 300 miles between San Jose and L.A. might as well be a continent. Firms that try to cross the chasm often do so at great risk -- but Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) is going for it anyway.

On Wednesday, the chipmaker announced a partnership with Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) to bring Web content to TVs. Yahoo! will contribute software development tools called widgets -- here's one for our Motley Fool CAPS stock-picking community. Intel, meanwhile, is working on technology that it calls "system on a chip." Translated, it's the collection of silicon circuitry that will be programmed to take instructions from Yahoo!'s widgetry, while broadcasting video on a screen. Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA  ) , Sony, and Disney have all endorsed the idea.

Why WebTV was really TV Web
Anyone remember WebTV Networks, the company created by Diba and Zenith in the '90s that allowed users to surf the Web via their TV set? Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) acquired the firm in 1997 for $425 million. As innovative as it was, I never really warmed to the idea of transforming a TV into an oversized PC monitor. E-mail from your remote? Why?

I've got no idea. Yet WebTV still exists as MSN TV, and it's sold as a set-top box. But it's not a leader; TiVo rules the remote for those of us who still think of form factors -- laptops or desktops -- first when it comes to computing.

Microsoft knows this all too well. Mr. Softy's no longer actively pushing a Media Center PC, relying instead on the Xbox 360. It's a good move; the Xbox is a living-room device that easily plugs into broadband networks, and a deal with Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) allows for movies on demand. For all the talk of Apple winning the living room, Mr. Softy has a comprehensive, if flawed media center for sale right now.

Living on Web video
That's the secret, Intel and Yahoo!: Build a system that uses the Web to combine gaming, content, and video. Bring me my Netflix account. Let me watch season one of Heroes now, before the new season begins. Or, just as good, create a device that fetches NBC's online coverage of the Olympic Taekwondo tournament when I want it. (It's not on the tube, sadly.)

Too bad this doesn't seem to be what the duo has in mind. Not yet, at least. Yahoo!'s software, called Widget TV, is designed to access Web content such as photo albums stored in Flickr. That's nice, but it's not what I need. Flickr is best on my Mac, where I can browse, edit, and print the photos I like best.

The good news? Widget TV is an interface that software developers will utilize to write code for Intel's chips. This handshake between hardware and software could simplify the process of bringing the Web's best -- movies on demand, multiplayer games, and custom programming -- to life on the tube.

Let's hope so. We've already turned the channel on TV Web, a failure of the cultural chasm that separates Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Intel and Yahoo! needn't suffer the same fate; Web TV's time has finally come.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. When not typing up articles for Fool.com, you'll find him picking growth stocks for Rule Breakers. Get access to all of his writings here. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy grew up wanting to be a news anchor.


Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (1)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On August 21, 2008, at 4:05 PM, badkat7 wrote:

    The CE3100 SoC from Intel (formerly known as Canmore) is intersecting technology with the Yahoo Widget TV (formerly known as Youngstown). In fact the CE3100 is capable of BluRay playback, streaming to (other) players within your home, recording to SATA drive (like a Tivo HD), interface with your camera's memory (video or photo), multistream cablecard (also known as MSPod) and internet.

    The video decoders can handle dual HD (your choice amongst H264, MPEG2 and VC1) or HD with multiple SD (standard defintion) decodes.

    The CE3100 also supports advanced trick modes and other capabilities that are customer specific.

    Widget TV is designed to be non-intrusive in respect of presence on your screen, and it's highly customizable (from both the consumer and service providers point of view). It's safe because all services are individually vetted before being offered to the customer. This isn't intended to be an open internet browser.

    You get to choose, to a high degree, what kind of information you get to look at. That information can be geographic sensitive, and also sensitive to what you are watching (context specific). Much of it will be free or paid by advertisement. And of course there will be the "Want to know what that background music is? Want to buy it?" usage too.

    I expect that rental, subscription and popular services like Youtube will be available; that's a customer/consumer/provider choice, but the CE3100 has the built-in cryptography to support most, popular encryption standards.

    Think of Tivo HD on steroids, optional with an affordable BluRay player, real-time (not slow time) content streaming, and Widget TV rolled into one. That's more of an overall image of what's going on here.

    Much depends on the execution by customers and adoption by service and content providers, but this is "lesson learned" from the Viiv fiasco, and the silicon (now on its 3rd generation and IA x86 meron enabled) is good-to-go.

  • Report this Comment On August 21, 2008, at 5:14 PM, joerosenberg wrote:

    The Netflix Roku Box is indeed awesome, but whomever does "adult" right will cross the chasm and win the living room. remember Betamax?!

    I think Roku-Netflix at 4100 obviates the need for cable TV. My wife and I switched from Blockbuster to NetFlix/Roku and cancelled our cable TV, but Roku needs to offer adult videos too! Otherwise the Vudu box is worth the extra money, and may win just like VHS. It would be nice for us to get our adult stuff from SugarDVD.com & our vanilla movies from netflix via Roku instead of waiting for the postman!

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2013, at 4:41 PM, adultave wrote:

    It turns out that many sites are turning to video on demand for adult entertainment needs. Sugar DVD continues to be a top destination with <a href="http://www.adultavenuedvds.com>Adult Avenue DVD</a> entering the market as well. I am not sure if Netflix or Roku have an adult service yet.

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