Comcast To Bring i-Guide To Cisco Boxes

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Comcast will finally bring the i-Guide interactive program guide to its Cisco Systems markets starting in June -- a project more than three years in the making that exemplifies the complexity of upgrading software for millions of set-tops.

The i-Guide version "S25," developed by the GuideWorks joint venture between Comcast and Rovi, will first be available in parts of Connecticut, where Comcast has already been testing it with employees. The MSO will widen to other Cisco/SA markets through the rest of 2010, spokeswoman Ellen Mellody said.

The IPG, which has been available for Motorola for since 2005, will replace the Cisco-supplied SARA guide in those markets.

Comcast i-Guide S25 for Cisco/SA

The rollout of i-Guide to Comcast's Cisco/SA markets was announced by Ted Hodgins, senior director of video product development for navigation, in a corporate blog post Tuesday.

Enhancements in S25 include a TV grid color-coded by genre (e.g., green is sports); a faster-loading video-on-demand menu; a "Quick Menu" for shortcuts; more detailed program information; expanded parental control options; and multiple favorites lists.

But the SA i-Guide lacks some of the advanced features currently available on the latest version for Motorola platform, A28, which is currently deployed to about 60% of Comcast's Motorola base. Those include Web-based DVR scheduling; an on-screen keyboard designed to make typing in searches faster; the ability to search and set recordings by actor, director or keyword; and interactive TV features such as the ability to set program reminders or recordings directly from certain TV show and movie promos.

Previously, Comcast had been aiming to get a version of i-Guide for Cisco/SA set-tops before the end of 2007.

Why the delay? "The company realigned its priorities and we are rolling it now," Mellody said. Comcast is aiming to deliver features comparable to A28 for SA markets in 2011, she said.

About 80% of Comcast's systems are Motorola, and the rest are Cisco/SA based.

Meanwhile, Comcast has completed integration and testing-in conjunction with interactive TV developer Itaas-of an Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format user agent for Cisco/SA boxes that works with i-Guide.

And on a separate track, Comcast is continuing to develop and test "Buckeye," the code name for its IPG optimized for 16-by-9 high-definition TVs. That guide, expected to enter trials in late 2010 with deployments next year, is supposed to include advanced search and discovery capabilities across TV listings, VOD and DVR recordings, among other enhancements.

Comcast has set up a section of its Web site, at comcast.net/meetyourguide, with more information for customers who have Cisco/SA boxes. In addition, subscribers will receive a booklet in the mail explaining the new features.

Markets in Comcast's Cisco/SA footprint include: Hamden, Conn.; Plymouth, Mass.; West Palm Beach, Fla.; Jackson, Miss.; Memphis, Tenn.; Shreveport, La.; Houston; Charleston, S.C.; Naples, Fla.; Sarasota, Fla.; Pittsburgh; York, Pa.; Scranton, Pa.; Cherry Hill, N.J.; Monmouth/Ocean County, N.J.; Alexandria/Arlington, Va.; Baltimore; Prince William County, Va.; Minneapolis; and Albuquerque, N.M.

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