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Intel prepares to launch combo cable and streaming TV service

The chip maker is expected to soon announce a set-top box that delivers a mix of streaming and cable programs.

Could 2013 be the year of the TV for the high-tech industry?

With Apple chomping at the bit to revolutionize TV and Google renewing its efforts in the market, now Intel appears to have its ducks in a row to launch its own TV offering.

Intel is ready to start marketing a set-top box built on its chips that will deliver a mix of streaming and cable programming to subscribers in selected markets, according to TechCrunch.

The service will be aimed at viewers who want to stream content to their TVs but don't want to entirely slash the tether to cable, where they night want to still to watch programming such as live sports.

A major barrier to entry into the TV market by the chipmaker--reluctance of content owners to relax their iron grip over their goodies--has been surmounted by Intel, TechCrunch reports, citing a source in the video distribution industry familiar with Intel's plans. The source said the service will be announced "soon."

That raises the likelihood that Intel could be planning a splash event about the service at CES next week.

If that's the case, Intel will share the spotlight with Google TV, which will be getting a buzz bounce when LG introduces seven new HDTV models in five screen sizes that will sport Google's TV technology.

To make Intel's offering more palatable to the content industry, the chip maker has agreed to roll out its service on a city-by-city basis, TechCruch reports. Content providers are reportedly more willing to give Intel more control over how content is distributed in select markets where the providers may have more flexible deals with entrenched distributors.

The plan also allows Intel to work around holdouts in key markets which will prevent them from blocking the chip maker from launching  its service.

Cutting deals for content

Intel's desire to become a "virtual cable operator" has been rumored for months. Initial reports pegged the launch date at the end of 2012, but Intel, no doubt, discovered, as Apple has, that the content nut is a tough one to crack.

It has been reported that one of the major hangups to the Apple TV set has been resistance by content providers to give the hardware maker the control it believes it needs to revolutionize the medium.

If Intel has discovered a strategy to vault the content hurdle to high-tech companies expanding their beachhead in the nation's living rooms, everyone in the industry could benefit, including Apple.

Intel has been trying to make headway for its chips in the TV realm for years. In 2009, for instance, it announced "Sodaville," an integrated chip with the power to run 3D graphics and 1080p high definition video.

The chip maker also joined the cadre of companies behind the launch of Google TV in 2010. Over the years, though, Intel has become increasing dissatisfied with Google TV implementations by television makers so, as Microsoft did with its Surface tablet, the chip maker decided to create its own hardware path into the market.


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