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Will Canmore finally bring Internet TV to reality?

Posted: 28 Aug 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Internet TV? consumer electronics? computer?

The marriage of TV and the Internet has tickled the fancy of engineers and marketers at consumer electronics and computer companies for more than 15 years. The concept is intuitive, yet everyone's still waiting for the first Internet TV product or service to take the consumer market by storm.

As a reporter, I've felt the features of Internet TV getting old. I could almost have recycled the stories I've written for the past 10 years every time somebody comes up with another Internet TV idea. But let me not turn too cynical too fast.

New look
Recently, Intel Corp., all dressed up with its first x86-based SoC specifically designed for consumer electronics to boost Internet TV, proposed to Pandora again.

While this is not the CPU giant's first attempt to open the box in the living room, Intel appears brimming with confidence this time around.

Rick Merritt, computing editor, assigned to cover the recent Intel Developer Forum (IDF), said, "Canmore, Intel's new x86-based chip, is pretty much better and the next one could be hard to beat."

Merritt gave an overview of the hardware of what's inside the Canmore. He illustrated in detail the software stack and software framework Intel developed with a host of its partners. One of them is Yahoo! that plans to deliver Internet services on TV via software widgets. In essence, Merritt was saying that Intel needs applause for doing its homework.

But having worked in the consumer electronics beat for many years and being skeptical by nature, I didn't get too optimistic too quickly.

Testing waters
I asked Merritt, "Why should we believe that Canmore is better than others to solve the fundamental Internet TV problems the consumer electronics industry couldn't figure out for years? Is it because Canmore is x86-based? Or is it because of this Widget Channel thing?"

I've always believed the fundamental problem with Internet TV is that the constantly evolving nature of Web applications and services makes it very difficult for TV. Consumers don't upgrade constantly to keep pace with the progress of the Internet. Merritt's answers shed some light, though.

Merritt quoted Eric Kim, general manager of Intel's digital home group. Kim said, "One of the major problems with Internet TV is that it interrupted people's TV watching experience by trying to place browsers on TV and to have viewers use keyboards or complex remotes to interact with it."

In contrast, the Widget Channel uses a thin bar along the bottom as a default. It's not about browsing, but rather about pushing content.

Merritt also pointed out that x86 is not necessarily better or worse than any other CPU for Internet TV.

But, he said, Intel believes it helps, because x86 is a well-known host for software developers and there is already quite a number of software available for it. The company has done considerable work to pull together low-level software support for Canmore and the layers below the widget applications.

Even I have to recognize how the very concept and the purpose of Internet TV have evolved over time.

Widget Channel objectives
In the 1990s, Web TV was used to bring Web surfing to TV. In contrast, Widget Channel is designed to bring video content available on the Internet to TV using an additional channel.

Widgets, with target applications designed to allow consumers to access Web services, have already seen successful in PCs and mobile phones. However, widgets alone can't solve all the problems with Internet TV.

More than a year ago, an article titled "Web video changing face of TV design," editors Merritt and Dylan McGrath wrote, "Systems makers need to drive three changes if they want to accelerate the coming of the Internet TV revolution by breaking down the walled gardens of content, remove the clutter of adapter boxes and lay down some Web video software standards."

This still holds true. Clearly, Canmore has shown us a new path.

Yet I can't help but wonder if there's a widget standards battle brewing. More importantly, where on earth does Google stand on this issue? Does it even care? More of these unanswered questions will be discussed in the future coverage.

- Junko Yoshida
EE Times

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