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Comcast Execs Talk Up X2, Cloud DVR

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s plans for a new IP-capable video gateway and a cloud DVR service were among the topics MSO execs discussed Monday during an internal video broadcast to introduce employees to the company's new corporate branding.

Comcast cable-unit CEO Neil Smit noted during the talk that a new device called the X2 is in testing, "looks fantastic" and will offer more personalization, according to a Twitter user, who confirmed he was privy to the contents of the broadcast. He said Smit also announced plans to launch a Cloud DVR service, calling it a "game changer" for the MSO.

A Comcast spokeswoman confirmed that the X2 came up during the broadcast, but would only say that the product represents an "evolution" of the X1, a hybrid QAM/IP platform with a cloud-based user interface. The X1 has been deployed in five markets. (See Comcast's X1 Rolls Into Silicon Valley .)

Comcast has not said much about new network DVRs, though sources told Light Reading Cable in April that the operator is trialing such a product in the Boston area. (See Comcast Tests Network DVR in Boston .)

A person familiar with X2 developments said it is indeed a revised version of the X1 HD-DVR made by Pace plc that currently uses Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and Entropic Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: ENTR) chips. The X2 will likely use Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) chips, though it's not clear if Intel and Entropic could also get a piece of that business, or if vendors beyond Pace could supply the box, the source said.

The X1 doesn't offer video transcoding and integrated Wi-Fi to help the gateway distribute to tablets, but those features could make it into the X2. It's also possible that the X2 gateway will work in tandem with the XI3, an IP-only HD client device that's in development. (See Comcast's IP-Only Set-Top Unveiled, Meet Comcast's IP-Only Set-Top and Broadcom Packs in Comcast's Set-Top Kit.)

While a cloud DVR service would reduce set-top capital and possibly give consumers access to their recordings while they're on the go, a person familiar with the project said such a product will also offer Comcast some protection from TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) and its powerful DVR patents.

"TiVo's patents aren't strong on cloud," the source said. TiVo's litigious history is "incenting some MSOs to go to the cloud … where TiVo doesn't have that sort of sway."

Next page: Comcast Keeps The Peacock

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Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
1/10/2013 | 4:00:14 AM
re: Comcast Execs Talk Up X2, Cloud DVR

Using cloud DVR as protection against TiVo's IP, at least when it comes to Comcast, would represent  more of a long-term strategic play, if this indeed plays into the reasons behind the MSO's strategy to deploy a network DVR. Comcast's already well-protected thanks to the license it already has coming way of that original deal struck in 2005.  According to Multichannel News, it appears that Comcast has TiVo IP rights through June 30, 2014, with renewal terms ending March 15, 2019. JB  



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