Let’s take a look back about a decade, to March of 2012. Intel announced that they were developing a “revolutionary” streaming video service. It would be everything that DIRECTV NOW is today, and also let you pause live TV and have access to an on-demand library. I reported about it on The Solid Signal Blog at the time, but unfortunately that article disappeared when we changed platforms in 2017. VentureBeat reported on it as well, and you can read their announcement here.
The Intel Streaming Box that never was
Unlike today’s video streaming services, the Intel service would have needed its own box. That’s how it was done in 2012, I guess. Neither smartphones nor the streaming boxes of the day would have been enough to handle whatever demand was put on it.
This wasn’t just going to be a box, though. It was going to be the world’s first live TV streaming service. Live TV channels delivered over the internet as if they were being delivered over a cable. There would have been DVR service, a guide, and all the things we expected back then from that sort of thing. If it had actually launched, it could have been a game-changer.
Except it didn’t happen.
At the time, I thought it wouldn’t work. A lot of folks had internet speeds under 5Mbps back then, and I didn’t think they’d be able to stream HD video. Intel would have had to limit their TV service to people with really good broadband, defined back then as over 25Mbps. It turns out that it didn’t work, but I don’t know if that was the reason.
SlashGear reported that the service side was plagued with licensing problems. Intel just may not have realized how hard it was going to be to get all those contracts signed. It took years more before DIRECTV or DISH could do it for their service.
It’s sad but only about a year later, the whole project was scrapped. The technology was later sold to Verizon for their “Go90” video service which is the streaming service you’ve never heard of and probably never will. (Go90 itself folded several years later.) You have to wonder what would have happened if Intel had actually gone through with it. As a total TV-industry outsider, they could have shaken up the streaming video business years before we saw Sling TV or DIRECTV Stream come on the scene. They could have ported their technology to later-generation streaming boxes and mobile devices, and developed a rich content alternative that included local channels. Now, almost four years later, we could have been just that much further along on a road to getting the complete TV experience we want, anywhere and at any time.
I mean, think about it
Remember the timeframe. When this Intel announced this product, DIRECTV had only been streaming video to DVRs for about nine months. Most smartphones didn’t really have the ability to stream much more than blocky SD. The leading streaming boxes of the day were barely able to keep up with the demand for HD streaming. The world’s changed a lot since then.
I go back to thinking about the Intel “OnCue” video box (asthey were calling it) a lot. It’s not really like Intel to announce something with so much hoopla. It’s even less like them to drop it like a hot rock less than a year later. I wonder what drove them in that direction and why they moved so quickly away from it. The news media at the time hd an idea. They seemed to think the entire project was the brainchild of an Intel senior executive. Apparently it was just a pet project. When he moved on, so did the project. That’s as likely as anything else, and when it comes down to it, we’ll never know.