Yesterday, when Comcast (s CMCSK) CEO Brian Roberts said his company was looking to re-do its TV Everywhere service, he cited Apple’s (s AAPL) 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)