After two days of large crowds of men wearing dark suits, the Cable Show got a little burst of color at the closing session yesterday, when Paula Zahn interviewed Oprah Winfrey, who recently made her move from broadcasting to cable.
Winfrey’s OWN network is a partnership between Winfrey and Discovery Communications. Winfrey and Zahn both wore bright shades of pink and red, a refreshing, but brief, interlude. Then it was back to business, with Brian Roberts, Comcast’s chairman and CEO, unveiling a new guide and user interface for Xfinity TV as part of the company’s Xcalibur initiative.
For his "wow factor," Roberts showed a clip, filmed at the Cable Show, of Comcast’s new interface, riding on Comcast’s network in Chicago and downloading 23 episodes of "30 Rock" in 99 seconds at a speed in excess of 1 Gbps.
Xfinity TV is the first of a series of products made possible by Xcalibur, an application and video platform that uses cloud computing in the Comcast network. "The cloud allows you to be able to have faster innovation," said Roberts, "To take all the brains of the guide – the search, personalization and recommendations – and pull it out of the cable box."
Xfinity TV currently is being trialed in Augusta, Ga. It includes:
- A Web-like/Netflix-like search;
- A more personalized TV experience called MyTV, where users can access all of their favorites;
- Interactive apps and social apps customized for TV;
- A hybrid set-top box; and
- A new remote control.
As far as the new set-top from Pace, according to a statement issued by Sam Schwartz, president/Comcast Converged Products, "We’re excited to have partnered with Pace to develop the industry’s first hybrid tru2Way/IP box. This hybrid set top enables Comcast customers to enjoy an exciting new cloud-based TV experience with all the great live, on-demand and DVR content that Xfinity TV already offers."
The Pace box features an architecture that leverages Comcast’s hybrid fiber coax network and DOCSIS 3.0 to deliver the new guide and user experience. The new device also includes DVR capabilities with a high-capacity hard drive.
In addition, Xfinity TV uses a new RF-based remote, which Roberts said, "is fantastic; the remote can go anywhere and it works; it’s not line of site."
Xfinity TV also integrates technology, content and applications from Facebook, Intel and thePlatform.
Intel provided the Intel Architecture-based consumer electronic SoC for the new set-top boxes. thePlatform brings its cloud-based video publishing system, mpx, as the content management infrastructure for the service. (See Comcast Uses thePlatform For Next-Generation TV Initiative).
Roberts demonstrated a Facebook application where a viewer can see his Facebook news feed on the TV along with rankings of what his friends are watching or recommending.
And Cisco confirmed its CMTS gear drove Comcast’s high-speed demo at the Cable Show. John Chapman, CTO at Cisco Cable Access Business Unit and Engineering Fellow, touted the power of DOCSIS shown by Roberts’ demonstration of 1 Gbps downstream/300 Mbps upstream link over a live production network.
"As someone who watched Brian demonstrate the speed differences between dial-up phone modems and cable modems a dozen years ago, and again of “regular” cable modems vs. DOCSIS 3.0-based cable modems just a few years ago, it was fun and gratifying to see this next leapfrog in capabilities: From DOCSIS 3.0 to whatever we’ll call this uber-amount of brute-force IP capacity," Chapman wrote.
And here’s an update to yesterday’s “Live From The Cable Show” feature: The winner at the second session of the CIO.IT competition was Affinegy.