Well, presumably, that little $45.2 billion merger with Time Warner Cable might also occupy some corporate attention, but Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said his company will focus on rolling out its prized X1 entertainment delivery platform and related Xfinity service. “Our priority this year is rolling out X1,” Roberts told attendees at the Code Conference today in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. “It’s a game-changer, and the reason it’s such a game-changer is that we’re taking the guts of what we do and putting it in the cloud. The stinking cable box is the wrong platform. The moment we leave that box in your household, it begins to become obsolete.”
The X1 platform delivers all the Comcast-provided TV shows, movies and other content not just to a TV but also to customers’ cell phones and tablets. It integrates additional services such as sports statistics, Twitter posts about a show, or RottenTomatoes.com ratings of movies, Roberts said. The company also sells hundreds of millions of on-demand shows and films, so many that Roberts said the company this week passed Apple and Amazon to be the biggest seller of electronic entertainment.
Roberts showed off some of the X1’s bells and whistles onstage during a sometimes contentious conversation with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, co-CEOs of tech news site Re/Code, the conference’s sponsors (though they also acknowledged that Comcast is a site investor). Roberts said the X1 initiative is a sustained attempt to move beyond the industry’s longtime reliance on a set-top box connected to a single, specific TV set. “There’s a reason a cable box was a real, wonderful liberator 30 years ago and is a tremendous retarder of innovation today,” Roberts said. “The incentives [to move beyond the set-top box] are because of competition. We have to improve every year and hope that we are.”