For decades, consumer electronics manufacturers and service providers have tried to crack the code on interactive TV -- and failed. With PCs on the decline and tablets established as a new battleground, Apple, Google (News - Alert), Intel and Microsoft are preparing to square off in another round for dominance over how video entertainment is delivered and managed in the living room.
Intel (News - Alert) might be the latest player to join the fray, according to CNET and TechCrunch. The chip manufacturer might be showing a cable TV set-top box behind closed doors in Las Vegas along with a virtual TV service offering bundling broadcast content with on-demand streaming. One source says Intel is frustrated by poor Google TV implementations, so the company plans to do it right -- an interesting point if true, since it mirror's Microsoft's (News - Alert) approach to tablets.
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There has long been talk of Apple (News - Alert) offering a set-top device and/or home TV set with an integrated and better experience. Since the company has re-invented the smartphone and tablet spaces, a successful home entertainment offering would provide the company with another platform for iTunes content and more money to be made. An Apple TV would slot nicely into an ecosystem of non-PC devices, presumably delivering a seamless experience from small screen iPhone (News - Alert) to medium-screen iPad tablets to a big-screen device.
Google TV tends to be an evolutionary rather than revolutionary product to date, with manufacturers taking a stab at simply slapping it into/over existing "Smart TV" offerings. In this respect, it's been more like Microsoft than anyone, putting out an OK, but not overwhelming product with improvements bringing up the quality over time. However, Google would most certainly like to have a better ecosystem to sell video content, ad space, and collect marketing data.
I'm not going to count out Microsoft in this landscape by any stretch of the imagination. It established a solid foothold in the living room with the XBox family of game controllers and has long had fingers into the cable space with Microsoft TV. I wouldn't count out Microsoft to already have a way to unify home networking and living room TV viewing with Windows 8, but it will have to work hard to get software incorporated into large screen TVs.
The wild cards in all of this are TV manufacturers. Do they continue to ramp up capability in TVs with more memory and faster chips, make those capabilities open for other vendors, go down a (typically dead-end) proprietary route, and/or make "big dumb monitors" that anyone can plug a third-party "box" into?
I'm not sure who I would bet on at this moment, but I expected the big players to start throwing more money at interactive TV because it is such a tempting market.
Edited by Brooke Neuman