Comcast has a plan to take on the likes of Netflix, Apple, and even Amazon, and the Olympics this summer will be its big test.
Comcast’s vision for the future of TV revolves around a technology called “X1,” which is basically the company’s version of Siri. The pitch is that X1 will be the most elegant way of dropping you into whatever you want to watch — fast.
The Olympics will be a powerful indicator of whether people actually respond to that functionality.
NBC is going to broadcast every single Olympic event, which Bloomberg points out is the equivalent of “tuning in 24 hours a day for 250 days.” In the past, you might just tune into the “best-of” broadcast or scroll through the app, but NBC (and Comcast) are hoping you’ll do something a bit different this year.
You’ll be able to use X1 to find specific countries or events, of parachute down into situations like “US is about to win gold.” You’ll hop around by speaking to the remote. “This is the future of television,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told Bloomberg.
And Comcast doesn’t seem to be the only company that thinks so.
Apple’s mantra is “the future of television is apps,” but its recent Apple TV updates show it trying to use Siri to push the boundaries of the app framework. Apple seems to be positioning Siri to be the central interface of TV moving forward, a digital assistant that will grab you the content you want.
There’s a battle brewing over which company will be your robot TV guide, and it has implications that stretch beyond TV.
Comcast compares X1’s voice remote to Amazon’s Alexa, the digital assistant that has been a runaway hit with its Echo speaker. The Echo sits in the corner of your living room and emerges when prompted to order you a pizza or cab, check the weather, play music, or surface random tidbits from the internet. It also can serve as the center of your smart home, triggering things like lights.
Comcast, which has more than 1,000 people working on the X1, has ambitions for it to be the center of you smart home.
But first it has to win people over as the center of entertainment. MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett is impressed with the technology, but says there’s a potential downside.
“There is a risk that Comcast is positioning X1 as a Mercedes at a time when more of the market is looking at an economy car,” Moffett told Bloomberg.