Cable Show 2013: Comcast Offers Sneak Peek of 'X2' Video Platform

Washington -- Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts presented the MSO's “future of television,” and its name is X2.

Offering a sneak peak of the MSO’s new cloud-based interface for set-tops, tablets, smartphones and other connected devices, Roberts showed off a system that teems with recommendation and personalization features as well as a voice-based search capability that will be baked into a new remote control.

The new interface is a revamped version of the currently deployed X1 platform. X2, Roberts said, will be deployed sometime this fall.

The new UI features a new, customizable home screen/dashboard “to get to anything that matters to you" quickly.  The example that Roberts demonstrated here on stage showed separate views that included TV listings, kids content, movies, sports, and recommended content. The guide is also integrated with software from Zeebox, a Comcast-backed company that correlates Twitter and other social networking data to tell viewers discover what shows are hot or trending.

Roberts said the new personalized guide will help users discover content more easily, whether it’s from live TV, content recorded to the DVR or available on VOD.  X2 will also allow Comcast, for the first time, to deliver Web videos to the set-top box.

Comcast, he said, has processed 30 billion VOD orders during the service’s ten-year  life, and averages 400 million on demand sessions per month. Its VOD vault now holds about 40,000 movies and TV show “choices.”

“It’s about personalization and getting you there faster,” Roberts said of X2.

Comcast is using its cloud-based approach to bring more innovation and application development speed to its video platform. Instead of leaning on a software platform that puts most of the smarts in the set-top box, Comcast is shifting much of that to the proverbial cloud and avoiding time-consuming, painful regression testing. Roberts said this new approach has allowed Comcast to make 1,200 updates to the platform during the last 12 months and accelerate the MSO's ability to become a stronger software company.

Comcast will apply X2 to set-tops, gateways, tablets and smartphones and other connected devices. “If you don’t have your products on every platform, you’re missing a whole generation,” Roberts said.

At the show, Roberts also offered a glimpse of the Xi3, an all-IP HD set-top client that is being made by Pace, Humax and other manufactures, that will work with the main gateway device. He said the Xi3 is four times faster, three times smaller and eats half the power of a “traditional” cable box.

The X2 is coming into view as Comcast prepares to deploy its cloud-based video system to half its markets by the end of June and to all markets by the end of 2013. Comcast, which lost 60,000 video subscribers in the first quarter and ended the period with 21.93 million, is marketing the current version of its cloud-based platform,  X1, primarily to new triple play customers.

On Monday, Comcast announced three more X1 launches – in Illinois, northwest Indiana, and Southwest Michigan – expanding earlier debuts in about a dozen other markets, including Independence, Mo.; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta and Augusta, Ga.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Philadelphia;  New Jersey; Colorado; and systems serving a handful of California cities, including the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, Fresno, Stockton, and Santa Barbara.