The Cable Show, a yearly trade show for the cable industry, is being held in Boston this week. There, cable companies showcase their latest technologies and developments. What’s the trend in cable technology for this year? Copying Apple, of course.
Comcast is touting its new X1 video platform for its DVRs. The platform sports an Apple TV-like interface (seen above) and allows customers to use their iPhone or iPod as a remote control. Users will be able to access TV, DVR recordings, and Comcast Xfinity On Demand programming. The company will launch Xfinity TV on the new X1 platform soon, starting in Boston and rolling out to other major markets throughout the year.
To be fair, Comcast hasn’t actually succeeded in cloning the Apple TV. For example, though it claims that X1 will deliver the world’s largest collection of video, there is no mention of a YouTube app. There is no mention of Netflix, Hulu, a browser, or internet access of any sort aside from the weather, traffic, radio, “social networking” and a couple of other apps. Comcast uses buzz-phrases such as “IP enabled” and “cloud-enabled” in a very odd manner. Speaking of “cloud-enabled,” there is also no mention of customers being able to store video, or anything, remotely.
“The X1 platform makes the TV smarter, richer and more personalized – and that’s only the beginning. Our goal is to leverage this platform to redefine the entertainment experience for our customers,” said Marcien Jenckes, senior vice president and general manager of video services for comcast cable. “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.”
Will Comcast innovate faster and more aggressively? All of the innovation in the cable industry has come from outside of it and was then absorbed in a less-functional incarnation. Take TiVo, for example. The company innovated and brought DVR to the market. Cable companies, unable to ignore consumer demand for the technology, built DVRs of their own that had just enough functionality to make them passably usable. Comcast’s X1, a watered-down version of Apple TV or Google TV, is more of the same, giving customers “just enough” to keep them from fleeing cable altogether. This sort of begrudging change is why more Americans than ever are finally abandoning cable.