Comcast released its long-awaited iPad app this morning, enabling its subscribers to navigate their program guide and browse on-demand videos through the Apple tablet. Luckily, I was at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco today, where Comcast is showing it off, and I manged to get some hands-on time with the app. My video walk-through is below:
Frankly, I wasn’t a huge fan of Comcast’s plans for a remote control app when it was announced, but my first impression using it is pretty positive, based on limited time with the application. The main advantage the app gives users is an ease of navigation when browsing through and searching for the content they wish to watch and record. Anyone who has used the ancient electronic programming guide available through most cable set-top boxes knows how difficult it can be to find something to watch, and the iPad app goes a long way to making that process a lot less painful.
The navigation of video on-demand content is also done well; while linear channels are displayed in the familiar grid, VOD options are illustrated by their film art. This is done in much the same way that Netflix displays its video options, and the ability to choose a VOD title to display from the app on the TV is pretty seamless.
One feature of the app that isn’t yet available, but will be soon, is Comcast’s “Play Now” functionality. Like the program guide and the on-demand options, this option can be chosen from a tab at the bottom of the screen. Once a Comcast subscriber is in the Play Now section, he or she will have access to streaming movies and TV shows from premium channels like HBO, Cinemax, Starz and Showtime. As an extension of Comcast’s TV Everywhere initiative, the Play Now titles will only be available to subscribers who pay for the premium video channels that they are associated with.
We’re skeptical that TV Everywhere initiatives will keep users from cutting the cord or canceling their cable service. But for users who aren’t going anywhere, the new iPad app is a neat bonus and a much better way to channel surf than using an up-down-left-right remote control.
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