iPad, Xoom Get First Crack at Comcast's AnyPlay
Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPads and Motorola Mobility LLC Xooms will get the first taste of Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s AnyPlay, a CableCARD-based device that transcodes QAM video into MPEG-4 based IP streams for mobile-device consumption. (See Comcast AnyPlay to Stream Live TV to Tablets .)
The MSO is about to start customer trials in two markets. Comcast isn't identifying them yet, but a company spokesman confirmed a CNN report that the MSO intends to start AnyPlay tests in the "next few weeks."
The spokesman said AnyPlay will be compatible with the Xoom and the iPad's iOS platform out of the chute, and that Comcast intends to support an array of other Android-based tablets later on.
Initial support for the iPad was a given considering its popularity and the fact that Comcast has already developed several apps for iOS, including Xfinity TV, which turns the tablet into a fancy remote control, a program guide and a conduit to authenticated video-on-demand from HBO and other programmers. Motorola, meanwhile, helped develop AnyPlay (Motorola calls its product the Televation, which came away with a Leading Lights award this year), so it's logical that the Moto-made tablet also made it to the front of the line. (See Moto, Comcast Team on In-Home TV Streamer and LR Names 2011 Leading Lights Winners.)
Like similar apps from Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) and, most recently, Cox Communications Inc. , Comcast's version will limit live TV streaming to the reach of the customer's Wi-Fi home network. (See Cox Connects With the iPad and Cablevision Launches iPad App With 280+ Channels .)
However, Comcast's stab at live TV on tablets, at least at the start, won't rely strictly on a native app but will lean on a separate, sidecar-like device outfitted with a CableCARD to transcode incoming MPEG-2 QAM video signals into IP streams. That approach should let customers surf Comcast's entire live TV lineup. By comparison, Cox expects its app to start off with access to about 35 live TV channels, with more coming as Cox obtains more channel rights.
The AnyPlay device itself sources video via a standard coax cable, and then formats it and sends the video to the router on the home network. The router distributes the video feeds to tablets over Wi-Fi. Comcast isn't disclosing how it might price AnyPlay and isn't saying whether it would lease the device or sell it outright.
Motorola has plenty of ideas on how cable operators can take advantage of Xoom. Here's what CEO Sanjay Jha and President Daniel Moloney had to say about it at last week's Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) Cable-Tec Expo in Atlanta.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable