Comcast makes its pitch to cord cutters with platform update, 4K video

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In its latest salvo against TV viewers abandoning their cable subscriptions, Comcast unveiled two technologies at the annual National Cable and Telecommunication Association convention in Washington, D.C., aimed at keeping more eyeballs glued to its screens. The cable giant thinks it can keep would-be cord cutters happy with an improved video platform, faster download speeds, and the promise of 4K video.

The web—but on your TV

First–up, the company previewed the next generation of its cloud-enabled X1 video platform. The aptly-dubbed X2 incorporates more Web content along with the ability to share entertainment across multiple screens.

In a statement, Comcast chairman and CEO Brian L. Roberts called X1 “an incredible example of what’s possible with cloud innovation. With the introduction of Web-based content to the platform today, and the promise of a faster and more integrated experience with X2, we’re adding more functionality to each screen in a customer’s home, and transforming our video product into a complete entertainment operating system.”

The updated platform includes the following feature boosts:

  • A customizable dashboard allowing customers to launch a personalized home screen that will be available on the TV as well as other mobile devices. Users can choose to be met with favorite apps, recently DVR’d shows, or relevant news such as weather or traffic conditions;
  • Personalized recommendations based on past viewing habits designed to become smarter over time;
  • Multiplatform access across various screens, letting users manage the system and preferences across multiple devices (including stoping and starting on-demand shows on various devices); and
  • Social integration that will allow users to access rating services like Rotten Tomatoes and Zeebox or track relevant social feeds through Facebook and Twitter.

The personalized dashboard on the X2.

The X2 follows on the heels of the X1 platform that was first introduced in May 2012; the new version is expected later this year. In advance of the new platform release, those users currently on the X1 will be able to integrate Web content directly to their TV with a “Send to TV” booklet.

Souped-up HD and downloads

The other part of Comcast’s plan to keep its subscribers hooked involves speed, with Roberts using the conference to demonstrate Comcast’s impressive 3 gigabits-per-second network speed. The Comcast boss downloaded a 4K “Ultra HD” video from an email in a matter of seconds. 4K Ultra HD video is one of the biggest buzzwords in consumer technology. It’s a super-duper video standard that offers more than four times the quality of today’s 1080p HD displays. And Comcast is hinting that it will be the first to offer it... somewhere down the line.

“Comcast has one of the fastest networks in the world with tremendous flexibility, the greatest capacity, and the best economics to deliver America’s high-speed future to millions,” Roberts said. “These demonstrations reinforce the capability of our existing network while showing we are ready today to take consumers wherever the future of broadband speed and video technology may go.”

Roberts downloaded the 4K Ultra HD over the company’s existing fiber/HFC network. Noting that the technology “is in the early stages,” Roberts didn’t offer a timeline on when 4K broadcasts could begin, but stated that the company “is ready to deliver what could be the next-generation of video as the content and devices are developed and become more readily available for use in consumers’ homes.”

Article updated at 4:12 p.m. PT to correctly describe network speed in gigabits.

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