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Comcast Debuts Family Messaging App

Comcast Corp. has quietly launched a new family text messaging and calendaring app for iOS and Android mobile phones.

Dubbed Family Point, the app offers private text and voice messaging in a timeline format, similar to a Twitter or Facebook stream. Free to subscribers, the app also includes a shared calendar feature and supports up to seven user accounts.

Family Point was developed by Comcast Silicon Valley. That's the same tech development group in charge of the new Xfinity Games app, which Multichannel News reported on Wednesday.

The new family app gives users a way around costlier text messaging plans, which have been a major source of income for wireless carriers for years. While SMS revenue is on the wane thanks to other Internet-based messaging applications, the new product from Comcast may be an unwelcome one for the cable company's wireless partners. (See Comcast/Verizon Combo Steers Clear of FiOS.)

Family Point launched on August 23, but Comcast has not publicly announced the new service. A spokesperson for Comcast could not immediately be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, the Comcast Silicon Valley group has been busy of late. The MSO opened its Comcast Silicon Valley Innovation Center as a West Coast satellite office in 2011. Earlier this month the division of Comcast Labs launched its Xfinity Games app, which turns an iPad into a controller for games delivered to Comcast's new X1 set-tops.

That app has also been kept quiet by Comcast, but is tied to a larger Xfinity Games trial service developed in partnership with Electronic Arts Inc. The MSO is testing the service in limited markets with select, invitation-only trial participants. According to iTunes, "XFINITY Games powered by Origin delivers console-quality video games from Electronic Arts directly to your television using your Comcast X1 set-top box."

The Family Point app works with iPhones and Android smartphones running at least the iOS 6.0 or Android 4.0 operating system. In a list of frequently asked questions, Comcast says that an online version will be released later this year.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading Cable

albreznick 8/29/2013 | 1:43:04 PM
Re: Nucular option I wonder if Comcast will get together with other cable companies to link family messaging across the US. Sort of like the budding Cable WiFi Alliance. The cable club could put AT&T and Verizon to shame if they could join forces to do that. Or would that violate anti-trust rules? 
Carol Wilson 8/29/2013 | 12:21:54 PM
Re: Nucular option Sorry but the last thing my nuclear family needs is another way to avoid actually talking to each other. 
Sarah Thomas 8/29/2013 | 12:03:04 PM
Re: Nucular option Or, you could just add the new member in to the exiting plan...unless you're already at the limit, or it's a polygamy type of situation.

These decisions are not too dissimilar from the ol' Family talk plans or T-Mobile's Fav Five. The hurt was so much worse when you were actually picking your favs rather than your fam.
mendyk 8/29/2013 | 12:00:37 PM
Re: Nucular option What happens when you transition from one nuclear family to another? It's like you have to quit your ONF (original nuclear family). Seems cold.
Sarah Thomas 8/29/2013 | 11:52:03 AM
Re: Nucular option I like the idea of this app for my nuclear family of four. We do a lot of group texting. My dad emailed me yesterday to ask me to not text anymore this month because he was almost at his 200 limit. I didn't realize not everyone has unlimited texting these days...which I texted him, thus putting him over the edge.
mendyk 8/29/2013 | 10:31:14 AM
Re: Nucular option Imagine the emotional scars borne by the child who's left off the Family Point plan because there's no room for him. Or her.
msilbey 8/29/2013 | 10:24:57 AM
Re: Nucular option Hmm. Seven sounds pretty good to me. I'm guessing Comcast wanted to keep this from being an app for the whole soccer team, or whatever. Though I can't begin to guess how they settled on 7 as a cutoff number. 
mendyk 8/29/2013 | 10:18:26 AM
Re: Nucular option Thanks. The maximum of seven also seems a bit culturally insensitive. I wonder if Comcast thought through that one.
msilbey 8/29/2013 | 10:15:07 AM
Re: Nucular option From the FAQ: 

Can I add people outside of my family?
We do not regulate who you add, although we recommend that you only add immediate family. Each person you add will take up a secondary account slot on your Comcast account.
mendyk 8/29/2013 | 10:01:02 AM
Nucular option Will this service be available only to conventional nuclear families, or will it extend out to nontraditional families as well?
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