Comcast testing combo TV-Internet service

Looking to compete with the likes of Google TV and Apple TV, Comcast is running a "small trial" of a set-top box that would offer subscribers both TV and Web content.

Comcast is trying out a new service that would provide both TV and Web content through a single set-top box.

The service, codenamed Xcalibur, would outfit subscribers with a set-box that lets them watch certain Web videos and search for live, on-demand, and recorded shows, according to The Wall Street Journal. Currently being tested by Comcast customers in Augusta, Ga., the service is seen as Comcast's response to competitors such as Google TV and Apple TV as well as subscribers cutting the cord on their cable TV subscriptions in favor of online content.

But from the Journal's description, Xcalibur so far seems limited in scope. It doesn't let subscribers freely surf the Web but rather offers access to limited Web programming and basic connections to social networks. Of course, this is just a first, trial step, and Comcast could beef up the service should it catch on. At this point, the cable company hasn't even decided yet whether to launch the service or how it would be priced.

"We are testing many technological approaches to understand how best to meet consumer interests, and this small trial is one of those experiments," a Comcast spokeswoman said in a statement e-mailed to the Journal.

Comcast has been working on the project for more than a year, said the Journal, citing people familiar with the matter. The boxes receive TV programming through traditional cable but get their Web content via IP technology. That same IP technology could also help Comcast deploy new interfaces and other changes to the system more quickly, added the Journal.

The cable giant has seen an ongoing dip in the number of cable TV customers over the past year, though growth in Internet and voice subscribers has more than compensated.

About the author

Journalist, software trainer, and Web developer Lance Whitney writes columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, Microsoft TechNet, and other technology sites. His first book, "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time," was published by Wiley & Sons in November 2012.

 

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