Comcast launches new X1 service in Utah to compete in innovative industry
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Many Utahns received the latest Comcast technology Tuesday in what company executives hope will revolutionize the television experience.
Subscribers in Utah woke up to traffic, weather, voicemail, stock quotes and sports TV apps, as well as Pandora and Facebook on their main menu as part of Comcast's new cloud-based X1.
"We believe this is the most innovative experience out there," said Matt Strauss, senior vice president and general manager of Comcast Video Services.
The company is the latest to offer viewers different options in an arena that is becoming increasingly more competitive.
The X1 platform is agnostic, so smartphones or iPhones, iPads or tablets can access more than 45,000 programs.
The idea behind the technology was to take television and the Internet, which were "fragmented" before, and provide a "centralized place to access everything," Strauss said.
Subscribers can use motions and voice commands from their iPhone to signal their TV to switch channels. Split-screen technology from Comcast allows a viewer to watch one sports game while browsing the scores of others that are playing simultaneously.
With the DVR feature, up to four shows can be recorded while a fifth is being watched. You can watch your recordings on any TV in the house and can even start watching in one room and finish watching in another.
Customizable X1 interfaces allow viewers to pull up nine most recently watched programs for easy access. And Comcast will use each program's "crumb trail" to recommend similar viewing to customers, Strauss said.
Because the technology is in the cloud, X1 and subsequent updates will be "seamless" for customers, according to Strauss. In other words, subscribers will receive upgrades on their current Comcast equipment.
Only Comcast customers will be able to access the X1 platform. Those with Xfinity Triple Play will be the first to receive the new technology, and Strauss expects the rest of Comcast's subscribers in Utah will receive the technology by the end of 2013.
XFinity Triple Play, which includes phone, Internet and cable service, is available starting at $99 per month for the first year.
Comcast is among the Internet and cable providers that encourage bundling, which means offering more than one service from the same company.
Companies like Comcast and CenturyLink promote bundling and keep individual Internet, cable or phone options "artificially high" so consumers buy all their products from one source, according to Eric Hawley, chief information officer for Information Technology at Utah State University.
For instance, Comcast offers a basic Internet package for $74.95 per month. But if you buy a bundle that includes basic digital television, it costs $49.99 for the first six months.
While more product for less money may sound appealing, there are consequences to bundling, Hawley said. First, promotional deals usually start out as low prices and then businesses sometimes "sock it to ya later" by raising rates.
Hawley also believes offering multiple services "stifles innovation." Instead of specializing in one area, companies can sometimes spread themselves thin and offer "substandard products."
"There are few companies that are perfect at everything, but they all try to be," Hawley said.
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