Comcast To Test IPTV Service For PCs And Macs

Comcast, attempting to persuade the FCC that new video regulations are unnecessary, told the agency that among other initiatives it is prepping an IPTV service to deliver cable programming to PCs and Macs and will launch Motorola's Slingbox-like device to deliver live TV to tablets wirelessly within subscribers' homes this fall.

This week, Comcast officially announced that it will bring on-demand programming to Microsoft's Xbox 360 game console, the operator noted in an Oct. 5 ex parte filing. The company also is looking to bring VOD to other game consoles, connected TVs including those from Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, and other devices such as Roku set-tops, Comcast Converged Products president Sam Schwartz said on a panel at CTAM Thursday.

"Comcast is committed to providing content to consumers where and when they want it, on all possible devices, and for those devices to be innovative platforms for new applications," Comcast senior vice president of regulatory and state legislative affairs Kathryn Zachem wrote in the filing. "These expanding device options are fulfilling the Commission's and Congress's video device goals in the absence of government mandates."

According to Zachem, Xfinity On Demand for Xbox will be available "early next year."

Light Reading Cable reported on Comcast's filing Friday. 

The MSO "will soon launch a trial to deliver private IP-based cable services to PCs and Macs," the letter said, without elaborating. Comcast declined to provide more details on the trial.

Comcast has been planning to set up a test-run of IPTV on the campus of MIT, sources said, confirming a Wall Street Journal report earlier this year.

In addition, Comcast in certain markets this fall will offer "AnyPlay," a device developed with Motorola (which calls it Televation). The companies demo'd the device at the 2011 Cable Show.

AnyPlay includes a digital cable tuner and transcodes MPEG-2 video into MPEG-4 for viewing on IP-connected devices. Initially it will work only with the iPad and Motorola's Xoom tablet, with other devices to come later, Zachem said. AnyPlay was previously the name of a portable DVR device Comcast developed with Panasonic three years ago, but never commercially launched.

The Comcast filing also pointed to other products and trials, including: the Xfinity TV Online service, which provides movies and full episodes of TV shows to PCs, tablets, and other Internet-connected devices; the Xcalibur TV test in Augusta, Ga., which features Web-delivered content and apps, and a revamped user interface; and its effort to deliver VOD to TiVos, which is expected to start trials later this year, under the companies' revised pact that abandoned work to port TiVo software to cable set-tops.

The point of the letter: Comcast is trying to demonstrate that the FCC's proposed AllVid proceeding -- which would force cable, satellite and telco TV providers to deliver video programming to third-party devices through a common set of IP-based specifications -- is irrelevant given the industry's voluntary efforts in this area.

"These developments, and numerous others that have been documented by NCTA in its filings in these dockets over the last several months, underscore the rapid and accelerating pace of innovation and technological change that is occurring in the device marketplace today," Zachem wrote. "Raising the specter of AllVid mandates in this dynamic marketplace will chill investment and derail the very innovation that the Commission is seeking to encourage."

The Consumer Electronics Association, as well as other commenters such as the AllVid Tech Company Alliance, argue that such ad-hoc approaches are insufficient to meet the Congressional directive that cable programming be available on any device a consumer chooses.