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Comcast unveils new TV platform with apps, social home screen

Comcast has taken the wraps off a new cloud-based platform that turns the TV set into an interactive experience and the iPhone or iPad into a multi-gesture remote control. “I think of it as taking all our learnings from the web and all our learnings from video and tying them together,” explained Comcast Cable President and CEO Neil Smit, who demonstrated the new products at the Cable Show.

“Xfinity TV on the X1 Platform” will launch in Boston first, with other markets coming online later in the year. While the programming guide and DVR interface is a big upgrade — with a few social sharing features that we’ve previewed before — it most notably adds third-party TV apps, as well. “We have a number of apps that have been customized for television,” Smit explains, showing apps from Facebook, The Weather Channel and Pandora.

To go along with the new platform, Comcast will offer the X1 Remote App, turning any iPad and iPhone in a remote control that doesn’t just graphically mimic a real remote — it redefines it through gestures (demo video below). Press and hold for a guide, pinch apart to go back to full screen, spin the tablet on its side a full keyboard appears. Each app is customizable, so you can create your own shortcuts into different parts of the program guide.

Then there’s Dayview, a social home screen (video demo below). “I think of Dayview as your UI for your life, your home, your entertainment,” explains Smit. “It’s your own personal welcome screen.” Dayview is a sliding screen of tiles with local weather and traffic, social media updates, your appointments, local sports scores, Xfinity Home controls (security, lighting and energy management), text messages, voice mails, news headlines, new on-demand shows and recently recorded shows on DVR.

For example, if it knows you live in Boston, and your calendar says you have an event tonight, the DVR will suggest recording the Boston Red Sox game for you. Pretty nifty.

All of these products use social media sparingly, perhaps, but as we’ve seen from Comcast patent filings, you can likely expect social features to be added on the platform. Since X1 is cloud-based, Comcast can easily push software updates to boxes everywhere. And there’s the new app marketplace, which opens up interesting social opportunities for third parties.

The home screen alone is a big development. While it appears that Dayview will be used as a screen saver of sorts to start, I think it’s safe to predict that every TV set will soon boot up with a social home screen, not to the last channel you viewed (in fact, we predicted this earlier this year). This real estate has tremendous value, and Comcast is just beginning to scratch the surface here.

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