9 Comments

Summary:

In what could be the grossest misuse of the iPad to date, the new Comcast remote app can be used to control the subscriber’s TV and DVR, obviating the need for smaller, lighter and more convenient remotes.

comcast ipad

Yesterday, when Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said his company was looking to re-do its TV Everywhere service, he cited Apple’s iPad as one device that the MSO wanted to make the service available on. So when he whipped out the tablet on stage today, no doubt there was some excitement about what he might do with it. But instead of showing off video functionalities on the iPad, he demoed its capabilities as a remote control.

The Xfinity Remote app works by pairing the iPad to EBIF set-top boxes, enabling two-way communication between the devices. In what could be the grossest misuse of the 1.5 lb, 9.5″x7.5″ tablet to date, the new app can be used to control the TV and DVR, obviating the need for smaller, lighter and more convenient remotes by enabling consumers to scroll through the program guide and choose to either watch shows they find or record them for later viewing.

But there’s one big advantage that the app provides — it will enable Comcast subscribers to search through linear and on-demand programming with the device’s touch keyboard. Rather than hunting and pecking through a search keypad on the TV screen, they can manually input letters on the iPad itself. That will come in handy, particularly as Comcast has announced it will add more than 11,000 movies to its video on demand library, in addition to the 20,000 TV shows and movies it has online. In a YouTube demo, Roberts called the iPad keyboard used for search “the missing link for a lot of us.”

The app will also have built-in social features, which will allow users to chat with other users, hook into Facebook and share recommendations with their friends. The app will also allow users to invite friends to join you in viewing programs you’re watching (on their own TV at home), building on the promise of social viewing and driving more engagement for its TV viewers.

In addition to the upcoming iPad app, Comcast has a free app for the iPhone and iPod Touch that enables subscribers to check program schedules, browse on-demand content and even receive push notification and voicemails directly on the device.

Related content on GigaOM Pro: Why Cable Operators Need an Apps Strategy (subscription required)

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  1. This is a great first step. If Time Warner rolled out something similar, it would make me much more inclined to buy an iPad.

    1. Really? You would buy an iPad as a larger, heavier and much more expensive alternative to your existing remote?

  2. Ryan, I think you miss the point. This is great, because I have an iPad already which is on the coffee table (well I actually don’t, but in theory). Rather than go get my Harmony remote and struggle with the onscreen guide, it would be way nicer to use my iPad.

    One of the big reasons is a decent keyboard, especially since I do more searching now than ever. The other nice thing is to browse the guide and DVR w/o affecting the content that is on the screen. My wife can watch her shows, while at the same time I’m figuring out what to watch next, or what to record.

    Just seems like a win-win.

    1. Search is important, and I agree that a better keyboard is needed for program guide search and VOD. However, I think the iPhone or Android touch device would be just fine for this, and not nearly as awkward as trying to use a big, bulky iPad.

      Honestly, a lot of this will depend on the so-called social or interactive features that will be available. If there’s a built-in way to chat with other Comcast subs watching the same piece of content, that could be compelling. But not sure how keen I am on the iPad being ‘just’ a remote control.

  3. Ryan:

    Most people buying an iPad are looking forward to Apps like this. Already, our family uses two iPads to surf the Web from the sofas while watching HDTV, sometimes to interact with the programming…other times to play games or just write short letters.

    Long before the iPad arrived, I’ve been using my iPhone 3G to control my stereo system and iTunes, along with DirecTV recordings in multiple rooms. These uses are in addition to all the new things we’re already using the iPad for, such as business presentations, kitchen and recipe prep or reading a book or newspaper or magazine. It’s silly of you to think of the iPad as “just a remote.” What ever are you thinking?

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  6. Chrome to Phone, Google TV and the Need for Browsers Thursday, August 12, 2010

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  7. Jérome Chouraqui Saturday, August 14, 2010

    This is a pale copy of what the french ISP FREE has released about 5 month ago…

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