Intel's four goals appear to be:
1. Real-world R&D.
By building its own living room system, Intel hopes to develop a better understanding of which technologies work and which don't, and also patent some good methods for this approach to computing.
For example, is voice-command a good interface for TV? Should home security systems be built into the TV? Can Internet-based social interaction be elegantly built into the TV-watching experience?
2. Earn a place at the table.
With good technology and even a little market share, Intel will be in a better position to convince the other players to integrate Intel chips into their offerings. One scenario is partnership -- another major player, or several, combine Intel IP with their own to ship a joint solution. The other scenario is a deal in which Intel's chips are used by whichever company dominates in exchange for Intel exiting the market.
3. Gain advantages in mobile.
What Intel really wants most of all is to become the dominant processor company in phones and tablets. These mobile devices will be tightly integrated with smart TV and living room systems in the future. Intel's initiative will help the company develop chips that are optimized for high-speed wireless interaction between mobile devices and living room systems.
4. Influence the industry.
Intel probably disagrees with the general direction other players are going in, and wants to influence the direction of the entire industry. As it learned from mobile, companies copy each other. And the best general approaches usually win.
By developing microprocessor-heavy smart TV and living room ideas in its system, Intel is hoping that the entire industry goes in the direction of heavy processing power like the PC industry rather than low-cost processing like the mobile industry.
Intel's surprising entry into the smart TV and living room market is part of a larger initiative at Intel to inform the world that the post-PC world has Intel inside, just like the PC world did.