Intel rumored to launch set-top box, 'virtual cable TV service' at CES

With CES 2013 just days away, TechCrunch has posted a juicy rumor that chipmaker Intel will announce a major plunge into TV, choosing to go it alone after several failed partnerships in an effort to "do it right" this time. Claiming an unnamed source in the video distribution industry, the rumor suggests a plan to deliver a set-top box with DVR, rolled out on a city-by-city basis as it negotiates channel agreements. Despite a number of demos through the years, the Intel-powered TV boxes that have landed in our living rooms so far have been the first gen Google TV and Boxee Box units. Both struggled to make a significant impact and switched to ARM CPUs for the second generation of their products.

Based on some of the tech demos we've seen and earlier rumors, Intel's plans could include using facial recognition to personalize the experience for (and target advertising towards) different viewers, and offering smaller, cheaper bundles of channels than traditional providers. Another element from the TechCrunch post indicates a plan to provide a Catch Up TV-style service that lets users view anything that has aired in the last month on the channels they're subscribed to, although there's no word on what will power this technology.

Intel's participation in Comcast's Reference Design Kit program is also referenced, although given Big Cable's traditional reluctance regarding alternative delivery models, any sort of tie-in here seems like a long shot to us. A combo package of pay-TV channels and internet VOD has been tried before, although Sezmi's antenna-connected solution failed to catch on and fizzled late last year. Like recently rekindled Apple HDTV rumors, the potential of Intel's service may rely just as much on its success negotiating with content providers as any technology it's cooked up. Check out the rest of the rumor at the source link and a video from Intel's 2009 IDF demo after the break, we'll have any official announcements as they happen from the press conference January 7th.