This month Intel brought together a group of Bloggers from around the U.S. for their annual Upgrade Your Life Event where Intel offers several Bloggers the opportunity to see what the micro-processing giant is working on – but we’re not talking necessarily just about their work on their latest Core processors. This is the second year that Chip Chick has attended Intel Upgrade. Last year’s visit to Intel allowed us get an exclusive up close and personal view of Intel’s education initiatives, their ethnographic research projects, their MID gadgets, and even some of their future (and very futuristic) projects. This year Intel introduced us to a variety of the different projects that they are currently working on, most of which are outside of the world of microprocessors.
Some of the folks at Intel who have been behind the scenes developing the new breed of web-connected Smart TVs came to talk to us about how Smart TVs will revolutionize the way we watch TV. But first, Intel talked to us about why they decided to get involved with this televisions in the first place, and it turns out that Intel has been working on this project for as far back as over 10 years. This is because instead of starting with what is technically possible, for Intel – first and foremost it’s about what looking at what people care about.
Genevieve Bell, the Director of User Experience within Intel’s Digital Home Group, and the ethnographic research group at Intel has been studying people around the world and the way they watch TV for several years now, and what they’ve learned is that people love their televisions. We can’t say that that surprises us. To that effect, she and her team have gone around the world asking people in different cultures about why they love their TV. In response, she’s heard people go as far as describing television as being “better than chocolate.” She says that people to indeed talk about TV different than the way they describe other technologies in their lives. During these ten years of studying television in the wild, they’ve noticed several key things, an that is that TV is about escape, that it’s beloved globally, that it’s also very simple to use (most of the time), and that the experience of watching TV tends to be very social. It also seems that even though more and more people are watching TV shows on the internet, people still watch more TV on their actual TVs. In the U.S. alone the average is 17-20 hours a week of watching television, and Americans still spend 5x more time watching TV than being online. But what is changing is that there is more and more simultaneous use of many screens in the house. It seems that people want more choice and more content. Bringing Netflix and YouTube to TVs has helped that pursuit, but because they aren’t standardized, each time they have to be built especially for each new device.
The idea behind Intel’s new Smart TVs is to make things easier to roll out with more standardization. Expected in the Fall, Google TV is the first Smart TV to roll out from a collaboration with Intel, Google and several CE manufacturers like Sony. Google TV combines the Android OS with the full Chrome browser that you have on your PC. Both Sony and Logitech are the first that will be bringing Google TV products to the U.S. These products will be powered by the Intel Atom processor CE4100. Intel’s representatives made a point to say that this is Not the same Atom processor used inside notebooks, but rather this is a one chip solution that was built from the ground up for consumer electronics devices.
GoogleTV is first and foremost designed to make it easy for viewers to find content, just by searching for it. As they type in queries, Google TV’s search sifts through TV listings, Internet content, your DVR, and Android apps. Other cool features include a customized home page that offers access to your favorite content, translation with closed captioning, and the ability to extend the functionality of the device with additional Android apps. The demo that we saw of Google TV at Intel does seem very impressive. But we’re a bit hesitant about one aspect of Google TV- and that is it’s dependency on broadcast TV. The Intel reps that we spoke to said that cable providers, like Time Warner and Comcast will have to work with Google TV to make sure that it’s compatible with their services. That doesn’t sound like good news to us, since cable providers have such a “great” reputation for adopting new technologies quickly. Can we say cablecard? We also know that many families have been left down and out since the analog to digital transition in the U.S. Many have lost reception for some standard broadcast channels, and many families have been forced to pay for cable or FIOS as a result. We’d love to see a Smart TV solution that works with, but isn’t dependent on broadcast TV, but rather just the internet alone, so that it can work for families that are only fortunate enough to have internet access.
Please note, that in accordance to the FTC Guidelines and WOMMA Code of Ethics, I am disclosing that Intel Corporation has covered my travel, accommodations and costs related to my visit to their Oregon-based offices.