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New X1 DVR Interface Takes Comcast TV to the Cloud

Xfinity TV on the X1 platform integrates interactive, customized apps, and social media features with Comcast's traditional video services.

With more and more TV viewers cutting the cord to their cable provider's video service, Comcast announced a move Monday that may give its subscribers an incentive to resist that trend.

In the coming weeks, the cable TV provider said it would roll out a new service that it vows will transform TV into an entirely new integrated entertainment experience.

The new service is called Xfinity TV on the X1 platform. It integrates interactive, customized apps, and social media features with Comcast's traditional video services.

The idea seems to be to make watching video on cable TV more like watching it on the Internet and, by doing that, make cutting the TV cord less attractive to a subscriber.

What's more, Comcast appears to be using the promise of X1 to grow subscribers to its "triple-play" premium services, since only triple-play customers will be eligible to subscribe to X1.

Features

The service, which will be initially rolled out in Boston, will have the following features:

  • A main screen with a sleek new user interface with one-click access to a visual display of entertainment options;
  • Unified search and instant play, along with recommendations, with the ability to find entertainment content in seconds;
  • Specially tailored-for-TV features such as customized social networking and music, radio, sports, traffic and weather apps; and
  • A new hybrid DVR set-top box with tru2way technology and IP capabilities that delivers a personalized TV viewing experience as well as an enhanced remote control that offers greater responsiveness and does not require a line-of-sight connection to the set-top-box.

In conjunction with the X1 service, Comcast is also introducing an X1 app for the iPhone and iPod Touch. It allows you to control X1's online guide with touchscreen gestures. For example, you can swipe the screen of your device to page through the guide on your TV screen. You can create favorites and shortcuts, too, as well as pause On Demand content by shaking your device.

Other features of the app include using a device's virtual keyboard to search for programming, filtering content by genre and HD format, controlling a DVR, and interacting with X1's social media tools and apps.

"The X1 platform makes the TV smarter, richer and more personalized --and that's only the beginning," Comcast Senior Vice President and General Manager of Video Services Marcien Jenckes said in a statement.

"Our goal is to leverage this platform to redefine the entertainment experience for our customers," he continued. "X1 is a giant leap forward, essentially transforming our video product from a hardware experience to a software experience, allowing us to innovate faster and more aggressively."

Capping Data Usage

While services like X1 may help keep video customers in the fold, Comcast has other ways to discourage cable cutting, such as capping data usage on its broadband network. Internet entertainment alternatives to cable TV are broadband hogs, so making people pay for data based on usage could curb cord cutting.

Just last week, Comcast announced it was launching two trials in several markets to test capping strategies. Currently, Comcast caps data usage at 250 GB a month. It's considering raising the cap to 300 GB and imposing fees of as much as $10 per 50 GB on subscribers who exceed their cap.

Follow freelance technology writer John P. Mello Jr. and Today@PCWorld on Twitter.

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