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Comcast’s Roberts unveils X2 operating system

Tue, 06/11/2013 - 2:07pm
Mike Robuck

At last year’s Cable Show, Comcast Cable president Neil Smit officially introduced  the company’s next generation platform,  the X1. As far as innovation goes, the X1 is so last year as Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts revealed the X2 operating system on Tuesday at the Cable Show.

The X2 system is smarter, faster and more feature-rich than its predecessor. Not content to rest on it’s laurels with the X1 platform, which is currently in 12 markets and slated to be rolled out nationally by year’s end, Roberts said the same team was tasked to come up with the updated X2, which is slated for rollout later this year.

The key to the X1 platform and the X2 operating system rests with taking the intelligence out of the set-top box and putting it into the cloud.

“We would describe ourselves more as a technology and innovation company,” Roberts said during Tuesday’s opening general session. “There’s a vibe at Comcast like I’ve haven’t seen in many, many years. So we asked this team to refocus the X1 platform sort of with four goals in mind.

“Make it faster for consumers to get the content they want. Make it smarter so they don’t have to do things over and over again, so it learns your preferences. Make it easy, so it isn’t too clunky and hard to get around. And make it personalized.”

The X2 demonstration included a new box, which is known internally as XI3,  that is four times faster yet three times smaller than its predecessor, along with the half the power consumption of a traditional set-top box.

Roberts also showed off a new remote control device that helps each family member personalize his or her viewing experience. It also features voice commands that helps users find content faster, as well as make content more easily accessible to the disabled.

The updated X2 is a customized TV product that consumers can access on a TV, smartphone, tablet or PC. It was designed to integrate live and On Demand TV, web content, home control and a growing number of apps in one user interface. 

When X2 users first turn on their TVS, there’s a “welcome back” guide that shows the programs that were recorded while the viewers were away, as well as other historical information such as smart energy management.

The user guide has six carousel views—more can be added— that filter TV listings by specific category, such as sports, kids programming and movies, and also filters by age to help ensure appropriate family viewing.  The platform will recommend content that is currently on live TV based on the customer’s past viewing habits, and is engineered to become smarter over time.

On the social media front, X2 incorporates social media including viewer ratings from interactive services Rotten Tomatoes and Zeebox, so customers can find the TV shows people are buzzing about, and ratings from Common Sense Media for age-appropriate content. Through the dashboard, consumers can use tiles to track their social feeds or photos on Facebook and Twitter.

X2

Roberts said that research showed that about 80 percent of recorded video content was from the previous 18 hours, so Comcast users can view that content first.

There’s search and recommendation across all of the various video formats. If viewers are trying to catch up with “Game of Thrones” the guide will tell them whether they’ve already viewed a particular episode, or how much of an episode is left.

“It’s about personalization and about getting you there faster,” Roberts said.

A new user interface for TVs, PCs and mobile devices lets customers manage content from any screen so preferences, subscriptions, saved programs and parental controls stay consistent, wherever they watch. 

X2 also features the flexibility to start an on demand program on one device, such as the TV, and then resume it where they left off on another device, such as a tablet or PC.

Ahead of the X2 release, two new enhancements are now available the X1 platform that integrate Internet content.  A new feature called “Send to TV” enables customers to easily fling a web page, like one that features streaming video, directly to their X1 set top box and view it on the big screen.  After downloading a bookmarklet onto their computer, tablet or smartphone, a customer chooses the Web content they would like to see on their TV, clicks “Send to TV” in their bookmarks bar, and the content from their computer or device then appears on the television. 

In addition, for the first time, customers will soon be able to access TV-optimized sites from a variety of third-party partners in an expanding app marketplace. 

”It’s a seamless experience and what’s critical is it works on all devices, on any IP-connected device,” Roberts said. “It’s easy, smart, fast and fun, and we’re just scratching the surface.”

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