Intel chip key for content partners

A year after Intel used CES to launch a chip Hollywood has embraced as a way to distribute its movies digitally in high-definition, it now faces the challenge of marketing the technology’s capabilities to consumers.

Intel Insider, which comes standard with computers that feature the second-generation core processor, code-named Sandy Bridge, was designed to protect HD digital copies from piracy. The software safely transfers full 1080p resolution files obtained through specific Insider-supported services from the cloud to a PC.

Although Intel does not have stats regarding active use of the feature, the company estimates 15 million systems with Insider have been shipped in the U.S.

One downside for Intel — beyond the few content partners — is that its current distribution partners have yet to use the proactive queue, a feature which allows consumers to download HD copies prior to their release and then access the files without delay when they are officially available.

With this feature, consumers can watch the movies directly from their hard drive rather than streaming 1080p content that requires buffering.

As of the end of 2011, those majors only included Best Buy’s CinemaNow, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. and its Flixster service.

“This is really a way to improve the user experience and really support the business model of the pre-sale window,” Chris Cukor, marketing director of Intel Insider told Variety. “You’ll see over the course of (2012) a real push to have both great content and a great user experience coming to products with Intel Insider.”

According to Cukor, distributors have not implemented this feature simply because “bringing new technology to market happens in phases, and certain features are launched before others.”

Intel’s next big push is expected to be for its Ultrabook line of thin, high-performance laptops, for which 60 of the devices from various manufacturers will feature the company’s chips this year. Intel coined the term Ultrabooks to create a new sector of the electronics biz to integrate its chips after the netbook market didn’t catch on as hoped.

Kevin Sellers, Intel’s VP of sales and marketing and director of the advertising and digital marketing group, said Monday at CES that the company would spend more money promoting the laptops — that are similar to Apple’s MacBook Air — than any other product this year. In fact, it will be the largest promo since Intel’s Centrino campaign in 2003 that associated laptops and Wi-Fi with quick Internet access, upping the chipmaker’s marketshare.

“By April, the marketing engines of Intel will turn on” to promote Ultrabooks, Sellers said. The effort will also promote Intel’s new Ivy Bridge microprocessors, out this spring.

Intel is also designing the devices for gaming in mind, with the company showing off the ability to control movements on a game by moving hands and fingers a few inches from an Ultrabook’s screen without the need of a mouse.

Nuance, which many automakers turn to for voice controls in cars, will soon also integrate voice controls in Ultrabooks and support eight languages. And touchscreen functionality is also being designed into new Ultrabooks, even when the laptop is closed.

As for Intel Insider, getting computer users to take advantage of its capabilities is now mainly up to content distributors, but Intel is expected to launch a separate marketing push to promote the service.

Additional Insider features to be introduced this year could help distinguish the service from its content protection forebears — which harmed the user experience through limiting or glitchy software.

Currently, Insider enables Best Buy’s online streaming service, CinemaNow, to provide consumers with digital copies of movies from Warner Bros. and Fox in full 1080p resolution. The feature is also used by Hungama Digital Media to present HD files of Bollywood films.

Warner Bros. in particular has embraced the Intel Insider technology, which also allows for downloads of HD files through the UltraViolet digital rights locker. Nearly 300 Insider-enabled titles are available through the distributor’s online WBshop.

WB and Intel co-sponsored a campaign for the digital release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” made available through the social movie community Flixster.

“Both companies have always shared a common goal of using technology to enable a better consumer experience for media and entertainment,” said Thomas Gewecke, prexy of Warner Bros. Digital Distribution.

Intel’s marketing strategy thus far has focused on raising awareness of the content services.

“This campaign reached millions of consumers through various online and in-store properties by showing them that they could download the full HD version of Potter from CinemaNow,” Cukor said. “Going forward, you should expect to see movie offers bundled with new PCs, similar to the offers you see from Netflix and Amazon when you buy a new TV or Blu-ray player.”

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