Remote Possibilities

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Los Angeles — Comcast CEO Brian
Roberts showed off a Web-based
remote control, running on an Apple
iPad, that would let subscribers
search their channel lineup, change
the channel on their cable set-top
box or launch a VOD session.

And the operator is actively looking at how it could bring the “Xfinity
Remote” functionality to its low-cost, one-way digital terminal adapters,
or DTAs, Comcast executives said. That would provide a rich, interactive
program guide and remote control for the DTAs, which, as
currently deployed, lack the capability to display on-screen guides.

The Xfinity Remote application, which Roberts demonstrated during
a general session at The Cable Show 2010, also lets a user remotely set the
DVR to record and chat with friends. The app can “push” a suggestion to
other Comcast subscribers (e.g., “Brian has invited you to watch Gangs
of New York”), who can
then tune their own
boxes to the channel.

“This liberates us
from the cable box and
puts it in the power of
the consumer,” Roberts
said in a video clip
the operator posted on
its corporate blog.

The Xfinity Remote
is scheduled to be
available to Comcast
subs later in 2010.
Other operators, including
Time Warner Cable, are also working to provide the same
kind of remote-control capabilities via various wireless devices.

The Comcast app — which is intended to run on any Web-enabled
mobile device, not just the iPad — uses an Enhanced TV Binary Interchange
Format “pairing” app to link to the set-top box.

For the DTAs, the question is whether those low-cost boxes could be
upgraded to support the EBIF app; Comcast representatives were checking
into that at press time. Cable industry executives speculated that
there would probably be enough headroom in a DTA to run the necessary
EBIF user agent.