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Cable Show 2012: Comcast To Take X1 Guide To Some Existing Set-Tops, Too

Comcast will eventually bring the X1 "cloud-based" personalized interactive program guide to nearly 8 million existing set-top boxes -- as well as other platforms, including IP set-tops, chief technology officer Tony Werner said.

On Monday, the MSO said it will launch the Xfinity TV on the X1 Platform service, along with a new remote-control app, starting in Boston and followed by other major markets in the coming weeks.

Initially, the X1 service will be delivered using a six-tuner gateway manufactured by Pace, available to new Xfinity triple-play customers with HD DVR service at no additional cost. X1 has a Web-like user interface that provides unified search across TV listings, DVR recordings and VOD, as well as built-for-TV apps for social networking, music, radio, sports, traffic and weather.

But at some point, Comcast plans to deploy the X1 guide and applications to set-top boxes based on Broadcom's BCM7420 system-on-a-chip. The MSO has 7 million to 8 million such boxes in the field, which conform to its RNG 150 gateway specification, Werner said, adding, "It remains to be seen how fast we move on those."

Comcast is able to relatively quickly bring the X1 experience to other platforms because of the cloud-based architecture, Werner noted. The guide uses an "HTML-like" presentation layer, with tru2way handling underlying services.

"The real magic is the 65 to 70 systems we built on the back end," to handle everything from authentication to personalization, he said.

The X1 service ideally will evolve to the point where the gateway can turn on a subscriber's TV for them in the morning, and display the personalized Dayview dashboard with up-to-date news, upcoming appointments and service updates, Werner said.

The MSO debuted the X1 platform at last year's Cable Show as Project Xcalibur.

In the past year, Comcast has had 400 software updates to the X1 guide, according to president and CEO Neil Smit, who demonstrated the new service here at the Cable Show.

"We're no longer doing a guide once every 18 months," Smit said. For example, he said, with the X1 guide Comcast was able to add in the Rotten Tomatoes movie-ratings in about two weeks.

With the launch of X1, Comcast is introducing a new companion X1 remote control app for iPhone and iPod touch devices, which will let users interact with the guide using gestures -- for example, by "swiping" their device to page through content selections or change the channel. The app includes a virtual keyboard to search video choices on their TVs and provides other features.

Smit said Comcast has a speech-recognition service, currently in beta, that it plans to introduce with X1 either later this year or early next.