Comcast offers new X1 platform

Tuesday , July 30, 2013 - 5:42 PM

Jesus Lopez Jr.

When a computer or electronic device needs an upgrade, the owner must, at best, wait for new software to load; at worst, purchase an all-new machine.

Comcast eliminates both those problems with its new cloud-based receiver, the X1, which launched in Utah on Tuesday.

With the X1 platform, Matt Strauss, senior vice president of digital and emerging platforms for Comcast Cable, said the company can continually make improvements to its system without making customers get a different device every time something new comes along.

Through the X1, upgrades to the system are made on the back end.

Sticking with the computer analogy, instead of having to update and restart the machine, the updates appear automatically. Because it is cloud-based, the system functions more like a website. When a website is changed, the changes appear on the browser without the users having to make any updates on their end.

This allows Comcast to continually add to its on-demand offerings, such as more movies and shows, as well as adding features such as apps.

With these features, viewers can update Facebook or check sports scores on the screen while watching television. They can also stream Pandora music and check traffic reports. The company plans to add more apps in the future.

Company officials said they realize most people will watch television while playing with a tablet or smartphone and X1 integrates many of those features directly into its system.

“There is a lot of information now that we didn’t have before, which is a nice enhancement for the viewing customer because if you give them what they want, when they want it, they don’t have to get it online,” said Paul Smith, technical operations manager for Comcast’s Layton office.

Besides apps, the X1 also allows the company to provide the user with more information about movies and programming including reviews from Rottentomatoes.com, ratings and synopses.

“It’s part of an entertainment operating system,” Comcast Cable Public Relations Director Ray Child said.

The new system also helps customers reach their programming through more devices.

Through xfinity.com, customers can log in and watch their programming on a computer, tablet or smartphone.

On the website, customers can also change the settings on their system, add to their on-demand queue or change parental controls.

The system also allows a smartphone to be used as a voice command remote.

“All of this is one integral system so our customers can access entertainment anytime, anywhere they want,” Child said. “There are other companies that offer slivers of all of this, but not all do it altogether.”

Strauss said Comcast developed the X1 drawing from its 10 years of providing on-demand for its customers. In that time, customers have made more than 30 billion views of on-demand programming.

With that in mind, at this time, the new system allows customers to record up to four shows, while watching another live.

Yet with all of the upgrades, the X1 will not provide an Internet slowdown. Smith said changes will be made through the cable line, not through an Internet connection.

“People think, ‘if I do this, it’s going to slow my Internet connection,’ ” Smith said. “No, it’s not, it’s completely independent.”

Strauss said Comcast has offered X1 in 20 markets around the country, such as Boston and San Francisco, for a while, and plans to continue to spread the product to all of its markets by the end of the year.

Initially, the X1 platform will only be available for new triple-play customers — that is, customers who have bundled cable, Internet and telephone services through Xfinity. However, the company plans to introduce the platform to all its customers in phases, in the near future.

The second phase will be to distribute the device to all current triple-play customers and finally to all customers. No date is set when the next phases will occur.

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