Intel keeps fighting for widget-augmented TV

At the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco this week, Intel has devoted a considerable amount of time to a variety of products -- not just netbooks -- that run on Intel Atom processors. Today, the company officially debuted its first Atom-based system-on-a-chip for consumer electronics products such as TVs, set-top boxes, and optical media players.

The 45nm CE4100 system on a chip (formerly codenamed "Sodaville") is backwards compatible with the Intel Media Processor CE3100 (a.k.a., "Canmore") that debuted at IDF last year. That product found its way into a number of HDTVs this year, including Samsung's "[email protected]" enhanced models. But Intel has been pushing the widget-enhanced Internet TV experience for nearly six years, and it still hasn't caught on. As with its continued advocacy of the Mobile Internet Device (MID) form factor, Intel keeps pushing but few seem to notice.

In a keynote at IDF this morning, Intel executives Eric Kim and Justin Rattner discussed (once again) the impending collision of the Internet with broadcast television.

"By the year 2015, you can expect 15 billion consumer devices capable of delivering TV content with billions of hours of video available," said Rattner, Intel's chief technology officer and senior fellow. "We'll need much more sophisticated ways to organize content and provide it on demand. Intel Labs researchers are working on evolving technology so people can get the TV content they want, when they want it and wherever they want it."

Streaming content is playing an increasingly important role in home media consumption today, and Intel is looking toward a future where linear broadcasts with mandatory commercial breaks are replaced by multi-streamed, Internet-optimized video with highly targeted, interactive product placement, and advertisements through "non-traditional TVs" like game consoles and connected set -top boxes.

Intel's 1.2 GHz Sodaville SoC can support hardware decoding of 1080p streams at 60 fps in RGB/YUV mode, or 24 fps in film format, as well as advanced 3D graphics. It has an integrated NAND flash controller with support for both DDR2 and DDR3 memory and 512K L2 cache, and general I/O including both SATA-300 and USB 2.0.

While Intel continues to provide the technology, the way in which the Internet will be combined with television remains largely uncertain. During the keynote today, Kim and Rattner said that the most common suggestion by consumers about how to combine the Web with TV is, "Don't make my TV work like a PC!"

This suggestion alone changes the question from "Why hasn't the Widget Channel caught on?" to "Why did Intel go with Widgets in the first place?" After all, don't people generally associate widgets with PCs?

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