Comcast offering cloud-based services locally

New customers will be eligible initially, expansion planned

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian business editor

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Comcast said today that it is launching its new cloud-based television services, called the X1 Platform, in the Portland-Vancouver area as part of an ongoing national rollout that will continue through the end of the year.

The new array of services will be available immediately to new customers of the company's "XFINITY Triple Play" services — those who have or are expanding to a package of three services that include cable television and two of three other options: Internet access, phone service and home security services.

The company plans to roll out the X1 platform to its existing "Triple Play" customers in the Portland-Vancouver area, but spokeswoman Theressa Dulaney said no timeline had been set for bringing those new services to existing customers. The process involves replacing existing Comcast boxes with new cloud-based boxes and a smaller, easier-to-use remote control device.

The cloud-based services, which provides a vast new range of choices for cable TV viewers, will be offered at the same price as existing services, Dulaney said. "This is the future of television for us," she said.

The new features, which Comcast demonstrated for The Columbian on Thursday, include user-friendly integration of live TV, XFINITY On Demand offerings, and DVR recordings, making it easier to search simultaneously among those offerings. Users can easily find the last nine programs they watched across all those formats and services.

The on-screen TV guide offers more, and more easily accessible information about program offerings. And it's easier with the cloud-based service to store away and find favorite shows, genres and actors.

For those who can't sit still, the new services make it possible to watch DVR recordings simultaneously from any room in the house. And those who can't decide among the almost endless viewing choices will be able to simultaneously record up to four shows while watching another.

Not enough stimulation? The new service makes it easier to download apps onto a television that will keep viewers up to date on traffic, weather, stock prices, Facebook, Pandora and voicemail. Sports fans will have access to an app that will track multiple games at once, and they can check the latest scores, standings and schedules while watching a television show. Other features will be added continuously, she said.

Comcast says the X1 remote app lets customers use motions, gestures and voice commands to control their TVs with their Apple handheld devices. Dulaney said the company isn't yet offering a similar app for android-based devices but she expects that to be offered soon.