Comcast chief Brian Roberts unveils next generation Xfinity TV system
Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts is linking TVs to the cloud.
On Thursday, at the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. conference in Chicago, Roberts unveiled the latest generation of the Philadelphia cable giant's Xfinity TV system. The upgrade boasts a less complicated remote control and a souped-up "Xcaliber" program guide, which is currently being tested in a few homes in Augusta, Ga.
The system includes applications to connect viewers via the cloud to their Facebook page, traffic and weather reports and Pandora Internet radio. The term "cloud" refers to computer storage via any Internet-connected device. Think of it as a file cabinet in the sky. For example, consumers can store their iTunes library or photo connections on a "cloud" and not use up valuable space on their computers.
Roberts differentiated the Comcast cloud from traditional clouds.
"This is cloud computing, not necessarily cloud storage," Roberts said. "The cloud allows you to have faster innovation to be able to take all the brains of the [program] guide -- the search, personalization and recommendations -- and pull it out of the cable box."
Cable companies have invested billions of dollars into the manufacture and distribution of cable boxes -- that soon become outdated as technology advances. "That doesn't happen in the cloud," Roberts said.
The system is faster than those that the company currently deploys in its approximately 23 million homes that have Comcast cable service. Roberts played a video that showed a cable modem downloading TV shows at speeds exceeding 1 gigabyte per second.
The service allows viewers to customize their offerings, including the ability to post on Facebook what they like or if they are watching a TV show or movie. Viewers also can use a search function that quickly identifies programs available on TV that feature a favorite actor like Tom Hanks, a particular program like "CSI" or a baseball team.
"So I'm interested in the Cubs," Roberts said as he demonstrated the feature for a large audience in Chicago. Then one of Philadelphia's favorite sons paused and said, "By the way, not really."
-- Meg James
Photo: Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts. Credit: George Widman / Associated Press.