Why Intel's Stealth TV of the Future Just Isn't Ready Yet

So, about that revolutionary streaming TV device that Intel is supposedly creating in secret and will reveal at next week's Consumer Electronics Show: don't believe the rumors, at least not right now. Following whispers from both TechCrunch and Forbes that the chip-maker would soon release a set-top box with streaming channel subscriptions rather than the typical bundled cable model, GigaOm and The Wall Street Journal have now crushed those disruptive dreams. The device, according to the latest sources, simply isn't finished enough for an unveiling. The CES release date is "inaccurate," a "knowledgeable source" told GigaOm's Janko Roettgers, and the delay probably has to do with Intel's difficulty in securing content deals with major media companies, cable companies, a problem Intel has run into, "people familiar with the company's plans" tell WSJ's Don Clark and Christopher Stewart. Which is what happens when you're trying to change cable TV as we know it. The Journal says the gadget, tentatively under the working-group title of the Intel Media project, won't be released until mid-2013 at the earliest.

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Why should we believe one set of unnamed sources over another, you might ask? Well, until an official announcement comes out of CES in Las Vegas or elsewhere, we have no reason to believe that Intel accomplished something that no other company has done so far. The cable industry has never once made a deal like this, mostly because it doesn't have to: A lot of people — like 100 million people — buy in to the current system. Intel has reached one content deal, sources tell the Journal, but it's not clear if that is with a major Hollywood player or not. Another executive at a "big TV company" told Clark and Stewart that his company was not negotiating with Intel for fear of disrupting the current way of cable. Content providers don't want to lose lucrative deals with channel distributors, even as the tech industry promises to make a big push at disruption in 2013.

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We do know that Intel is trying. The channel-subscription model has been circulating since last March, and we've been skeptical ever since. Intel reportedly has a whole secret lair called Intel Media, which is "run like a start-up in stealth mode," as GigaOm writes. Inside that den of innovation Intel's people have crafted a box that will connect not only to TV but other media consumption devices as well, sources say.

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All of the hardware, then, appears in place. But what about licensing agreements for Intel to sell channels à la carte? Not even Roettgers makes that sound like a done deal, calling it That's "one of the key challenges of the project," GigaOm says — a challenge Intel hasn't been able to figure out yet. But, hey, neither has Apple and its long rumored TV redux, and Intel does have a press event during CES. So, like we said, don't believe everything — not yet.