Chasing Voldemort ... er, Xcalibur
8:30 AM -- For the better part of two years, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s Xcalibur project has been the cable industry's Voldemort -- the project that shall-not-be-named. Utter that word in a crowded room, and you'll never see cable industry folks scatter for the exits so quickly.
My personal toxicity level jumped a few notches when I reported the first story on it in late 2009. No one in the industry wanted to get within fifteen feet of me until the spring of 2010. It was a frosty, lonely winter.
Well, the sun is shining again, because Comcast finally yanked Xcalibur from the stone and flashed it for the first time Wednesday via this blog post from Sam Schwartz, the president of Comcast Converged Products.
Check it out. It's pretty interesting. It's all about Comcast's use of cloud to bring its TV navigation systems up to snuff and make them look and act like the more personal and intuitive systems it has created for tablets, smartphones and other IP-connected devices, including a souped-up Xfinity Spectrum HD-DVR being tested in Augusta, Ga. Schwartz also mentions connected TVs and gaming consoles among the kind of devices Xcalibur is targeting with the pointy end of its blade.
Comcast doesn't say as much, but the way we hear it, Xcalibur feeds into the MSO's over-arching IP video migration strategy.
News about Xcalibur has trickled out since 2009. Here's a timeline to get you up to speed on what's happened and what might be ahead:
Word about "Excalibur" (this was before Comcast went all Xfinity on us) starts to spread at The Cable Show in Denver. Much of what's being said is highly speculative, but at least we peg that Schwartz is the guy in charge, that they're hiring like mad, and that it all has something to do with service convergence.
The trail went ice cold for a while after Comcast declared nuclear winter on the topic, but a sliver of sunshine creeps through when The Wall Street Journal finds out Comcast is testing the Spectrum box and Xcalibur system in Augusta, placing less emphasis on Web video and much more on a new, fancy guide and Web-sourced apps like Pandora.
We get an exclusive on what the Xcalibur box -- at this point dubbed "Parker" -- looks like, and run it in our Rumors section. (Free registration required.)
We learn a little bit more about the innards of the test box, discovering that it sports a user interface from Vividlogic (part of SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC)), the Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) Qt application framework and widget engine, and an Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) chipset.
Wireless Goodness notices when that box makes it to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and everyone not only gets a good gander at what the box looks like, but also gets a better sense of what else is inside (a CableCARD slot, a USB 2.0 port), confirmation on who's making it (Pace plc ) and what sorts of things it supports thanks to a handy-dandy user's guide.
Engadget publishes a sneak peek of the Spectrum DVR and new interface … and the reviewer/user likes it.
The Journal gets the scoop that Comcast is going to test an IP video infrastructure at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as the MSO looks to migrate off of QAM-delivered video and support a full array of IP-connected devices using Xcalibur's cloud-based approach to apps, navigation and services. Schwartz tells the paper that Spectrum should be reaching the deployment stage in 2012.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable