Cable Show 2011: Comcast Teams With Intel, Pace And Facebook On 'Xcalibur' TV Service

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Comcast sketched out more details of its "Xcalibur" set-top and TV service ahead of Comcast CEO Brian Roberts' demo here scheduled for Thursday, announcing that the Pace-built box is powered by an Intel chip and will be integrated with Facebook.

Roberts will also provide "a glimpse into the future of broadband speed" in a demo here on Thursday, June 16, during the Cable Show general session that begins at 9 a.m. CT.

Comcast is testing a service, dubbed Xfinity Spectrum, using Pace RNG 210N boxes with Intel's CE 3100 media processor in a few dozen homes in Augusta, Ga. The service, powered by Comcast's network-based Xcalibur platform, features a redesigned interactive program guide to let users search for program titles, actors, sports teams and genres as well as providing personalization and social media features.

Comcast Xcalibur MyTV favorites

In addition, the service will use the mpx video publishing system from Comcast's ThePlatform subsidiary as the content management infrastructure for the service.

ThePlatform's mpx is managing the actual TV service for the Xcalibur service, which the company said "raises the bar significantly for the so-called OVP (online video platform) category." On Monday, ThePlatform announced a strategic alliance with Alcatel-Lucent to sell IP-based TV systems to global TV service providers.

"TV services have historically been defined by infrastructure equipment, but that's changing. Moving forward, cloud computing will play a defining role in enabling TV service providers to innovate and differentiate," ThePlatform CEO Ian Blaine said.

According to Comcast, the new Xfinity TV service features fast, "intuitive" search, a more personalized TV experience called MyTV that lets users see and access their recordings, favorites and recommendations in one place; and interactive apps that are easy to access and enhanced for TV, like traffic and weather, and social apps like Facebook that let users share and discover what to watch with their friends.

Comcast's use of the Pace box was disclosed in equipment-compliance documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission in December.

"We've made great progress on providing better tools -- first on the web, then on tablets and mobile devices -- to make it easier to find what you want to watch, when you want it from thousands of choices," Sam Schwartz, president of Comcast Converged Products, said in a statement. "This is a new platform for continuous innovation and new product development. We are just beginning to scratch the surface of what's possible and we look forward to working with industry leaders like these as we continue to evolve what it means to watch TV."

According to Comcast, this is the first of a series of products enabled by Xcalibur, an application and video platform that uses "cloud computing" services in the network.

Pace developed the hybrid digital video recorder set-top box with Tru2way, DOCSIS 3.0 and IP-video capability that enables the new television experience.

"Comcast has a track record of delivering the unexpected and taking TV services to a whole new level. We are very proud that Comcast has chosen to partner with Pace on this extraordinary project," Pace Americas president Mike Pulli said.

For Intel, the Comcast project -- which has been at least four years in progress -- represents a significant cable win as the chip maker looks to expand its reach into the system-on-a-chip segment, according to Erik Huggers, vice president and general manager of Intel's Digital Home Group.

"In my mind, this is a great proof point," Huggers said. "Comcast shares our vision of smart TV. They believe the experience consumers get while they navigate to the programs needs a big old overhaul. And you can't do that on any old bit of silicon."

Roberts' demo will be streamed live on June 16 beginning at 9 am CT/10 am ET at http://2011.thecableshow.com/live and on http://blog.comcast.com. The service also will be demonstrated in the Comcast Cable booth (#1201) as well as Pace's (booth #649) at the Cable Show.

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