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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- When I first heard the rumor that Intel(INTC - Get Report) would become what amounts to a conventional cable television provider -- via Internet delivery -- I scoffed.
There was no way stodgy, old,
we missed mobile worse than Facebook(FB) Intel could compete with living room frontrunner
Microsoft(MSFT - Get Report) or
we figured out the living room, but we would rather not provide meaningful detailsApple(AAPL - Get Report). The more I hear about Intel's plans and, to a lesser extent, Apple's lack of plans, the more I think Intel has come to play and will win.
Intel intends to release a set-top box in time for the holidays. That much we know; however dig the details that have not been quite as widely publicized.
Intel's device will provide access to a suite of content choices so complete you will be able to drop your current cable or satellite provider and make Intel your lone source. The company's offering will be as much about the actual content it delivers as it's about how subscribers select, organize and interact with that content. And it will be social.
As Intel's core businesses continue to struggle, Intel Media -- for all intents and purposes, a standalone startup venture -- could end up digging the chipmaker out of its seemingly hopeless ditch. VP/GM Erik Huggers runs a ship
that doesn't depend on long shots such as Microsoft for success. In many ways, Intel Media operates as the anti-Intel, but if Huggers' aggressive push into television goes well, the approach and culture could wind up a blueprint for the larger company.
Huggers has an edge over most newish other players in the living room, particularly Apple, because the cats who hold the cards -- huge content providers such as
Time Warner(TWX) and
News Corp(NWSA) -- know him and like him. When Huggers, a former
BBC executive, enters a room to negotiate partnerships and deals with top executives at these companies -- and, yes, the discussions are taking place at the highest levels -- he doesn't bring the misguided arrogance that Apple does.
Huggers and his team at Intel Media recognize that big content owners have no reason to cut access deals to their content. They have seen how Apple operated (and continues to operate) with the music industry and how it dictated the terms of engagement to wireless carriers, two groups that need/needed Apple more than Apple needs them.