Comcast's Xcalibur, or Xfinity TV service, was one of the worst kept secrets of the cable industry ever since the rumors first surfaced a few years ago, but now Comcast is not only providing details on the cloud-based video system, but it also has a demonstration slated for Thursday with Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts.
Xcalibur's goal has been to bring Internet-like features to TV screens, which not only means a better service for customers, but also a much shorter innovation cycle for the cable operator. Through a new guide and user interface, Xcalibur also enables better navigation and search capabilities on live TV and video-on-demand.
"We've made great progress on providing better tools – first on the Web, then on tablets and mobile devices – to make it easier to find what you want to watch, when you want it, from thousands of choices. We're excited to bring those advanced capabilities to the TV set to enable a richer, more personalized experience," said Sam Schwartz, president of Comcast Converged Products. "This is a new platform for continuous innovation and new product development. We are just beginning to scratch the surface of what's possible, and we look forward to working with industry leaders like these as we continue to evolve what it means to watch TV."
Schwartz led the core team that developed Xcalibur, which is currently undergoing a trial in Augusta, Ga.
Comcast-owned thePlatform is providing the behind-the-scenes heavy lifting for Xcalibur with its mpx platform. With mpx, thePlatform is providing central video logistics for Comcast's Xcalibur service.
Over the past few years, thePlatform has built its reputation on delivering broadband video to cable operators and other service providers, but the company's CEO, Ian Blaine, said one of the main reasons Comcast bought thePlatform was to enable a cloud-based service.
ThePlatform has plenty of experience serving up broadband-based services, but taking its technology to a TV screen was a new challenge.
"It's a lot more complex in the cable environment than the broadband environment," Blaine said in an interview with CED. "There are layers like local and national windows and working with the traditional billing system. For us, the takeaway in the trial is that we can make cloud-based services meld with the legacy infrastructure."
Blaine said serving up millions of media transactions and media titles over broadband via TV Everywhere services provided a solid base for working with Schwartz and the rest of Comcast's Xcalibur team.
ThePlatform upped its game for Xcalibur by increasing the metadata for searches, as well as enlarging its entitlements and device management capabilities. While thePlatform worked hand in hand with Comcast on Xcalibur, the solution is available to other service providers through a strategic alliance with Alcatel-Lucent.
"It's a good one, but we had to keep it under wraps," Blaine said of Xcalibur. "It's nice to be able to announce it today."
In addition to thePlatform, Comcast also teamed up with Intel, which provided the Intel Architecture-based CE SoC for the new set-top boxes, delivering the CPU and graphics performance required for the service's advanced user interface, fast responsive performance and new interactive applications.
Pace developed the hybrid set-top box with tru2way and IP capability that enables the new television experience, while Facebook worked with Comcast on social apps for Xcalibur.
Roberts' demonstration of Xcalibur is slated for 9 a.m. during The Cable Show's general session.