Intel and Microsoft have announced that they will co-operate on developing technology to bring interactive television content to PCs and other devices.
The first fruit of the effort will be the integration of Intel's Intercast software into Microsoft's WebTV for Windows feature of Windows 98, a part of the operating system which is due out in June, a Microsoft official said. WebTV for Windows provides TV capabilities on the PC and supports services such as data broadcasting and electronic program guides or interactive TV programming.
Intel's Intercast technology allows television programmers to create full-screen interactive programming by
combining TV with digital enhancements based on HTML.
Both companies see the effort as the first step toward development of a common framework for enhancing TV programming with data that will be available on a variety of platforms, including PCs equipped with TV tuners.
Since the Internet has captured the minds of television broadcasting executives which are preparing their networks to deliver digital television programming starting this year, there is more interest in considering the PC as a medium for receiving digital television programming feeds than a year ago, said Ron Whittier, senior vice president at Intel in a teleconference today
Being able to receive digital television programming with a PC, which can simultaneously tap into the Internet for online shopping and interactive services, is presenting the television industry with new incentives and a a new business model that may extend the reach of traditional TV advertising, Whittier said.
However, a range of technical issues, including which video format -- interlaced or progressive -- is best suited for digital programming, still need to be sorted out within the TV and PC industries.
Compared to a year ago when Microsoft and Intel along with Compaq tried to rally both industries around adopting the progressive format -- a move which was not well received by TV executives -- the mood for cooperation this year has improved, Whittier said.
Both industries are now understanding each other's position and technology better than a year ago and as a result have become a bit more receptive to each other's approach to digital television, he said.
Today's announcement once again is intended to eliminate some of the fragmentation in both industries which have adopted many different technologies and transmission formats for digital TV, said Craig Mundie, senior vice president of the consumer products division at Microsoft.
Both companies also believe the integration of each other's technology under today's agreement will lead to more PC makers including TV tuners with their systems. That in turn will help PC sales -- which will help sales of Intel's processors -- and spur the development of consumer-oriented applications, as well as business-oriented software that will take advantage of interactive television programming, both Mundie and Whittier said.
The companies plan to jointly develop a platform for adding data to traditional television programming, first for analog broadcasts and then for digital broadcasts as that technology develops, the companies said.
Whittier said Intel is already working with nine broadcasters, including CNN (Cable Network News), MTV and QVC shopping network, with about 1,400 hours of programming per week now being produced with Intercast technology.