Friday, June 17, 2011

New Settop Box, New Modem For Comcast Xfinity

From this week's Cable Show, Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast introduces the audience to it's next generation converter box and modem.

Utilizing a Rovi guide and data stored in the cloud, the set top is designed to provide a graphically richer and faster user experience. Roberts "...used the time for a demo of one technology the company hadn’t yet decided how to deploy—1 Gbps downloads over a cable modem, which we were first to report. But most of the demo went to Xfinity TV features already used in Comcast’s Augusta, Ga. system, including nimble and robust search, apps and DVR management." I have to admit, I had seen this guide demonstration last year inside Comcast Corp as well as other projects including 3D. It will be a very impressive undertaking to switchout boxes and move subscribers to this new experience. With so much legacy set top boxes in the field and the capital costs associated with conversion, I wonder the time frame to bring this rich new experience into the home. And I worry that by the time Comcast gets even to scale, that consumers may have already ditched the set top and cut the cord to cable.

As this rich data is coming from the clouds, so should the content. The boxes seem to continue to rely on an EBIF approach while CE manufacturers are gaining ground with web connections for online content. It is this threat that should most concern the cable industry. Can Comcast deploy these new boxes fast enough to keep subscribers from downgrading and dropping video service? And can Comcast get it's programming partners on board to enable live streaming of channels to authenticated mobile devices outside the home. Certainly Comcast has the deep pockets but it needs to happen sooner rather than later.