updated 12:30 pm EST, Tue December 14, 2010
Comcast field-testing web, DVR set-top in homes
Cable provider Comcast is testing a set-top box that would bring together TV and Internet services, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. Called Xcalibur internally, the box is meant to fend off rivals such as Apple TV, Google TV and Roku and is being tested in August, Georgia. It combines DVR functions with some web features, although not ones that include a browser.
Users will have access to Web video on their TVs, getting access to live, on-demand and recorded programming. While full-blown web access isn't available, there will be built-in social networks and the ability to comment on TV shows. As time goes on, Comcast says it will expand the Internet content on the service. But the decision to commercially offer the service and how to price it hasn't yet been made.
The interface has a largely graphical look to it, with a menu that shows thumbnails of recently watched channels and programs. A new guide shows a clean grid of selections sorted by network and airtime. Users can watch TV while browsing the guide.
Comcast is exploring this opportunity as more customers get rid of their cable subscriptions in favor of web-based media. In the third quarter of 2010, Comcast said it lost 275,000 video subscribers and expects more so-called "cord-cutters" before year's end, although it has publicly insisted that most of these were hit by the economy and not jumping to Internet video.