It took a little while, but Comcast finally released the iPad app it had demoed back in May at The Cable Show 2010. At the time, their app seemed cutting edge, but since that show Dish Network beat Comcast to the punch by releasing its own app during the summer.
The new app from Comcast, XFINITY TV, does pretty much what the Dish Network app does: it allows users to browse TV listings, change the channel on their TV (actually, the cable box) and set DVR recordings. Essentially it turns your iPad into a giant remote control. Or, conversely it turns your iPhone into a small remote control.
This is a good start, but after all these months you might have thought that the app would bring much more features. For instance, there is no social networking brought into the app -- no way to tell your friends to watch a certain program.
It is possible that additional features will be built into this app down the road, but I assumed that this app was delayed so long because these features were being developed.
Before I begin to lay into Comcast, let me say that I have two Comcast apps on my phone and iPad that I consider important. The first lets me get e-mail and control my office phone. With it, I can get voice messages, forward the phone, etc. The second app is the new one which we will see over time whether it proves as useful. But . . .
It is clear that Comcast is taking an Old Media approach here.
A New Media approach would have opened up a world of possibilities. First, let's talk about channels. On a cable box channels are listed by number. With their app, a Comcast subscriber can browse and search TV listings -- browse and search. That is, here is our content, go look at it.
So, what would have been a New Media approach? Here is our content, now go and create your own channels.
If my daughter wants to watch Bones at 6pm and Glee at 7pm, why not allow her to drop and drag those programs into her own custom channel -- we'll call it "Meghan's Channel".
A New Media approach -- and I guarantee someone will do this at some point -- will incorporate some of the streaming features soon to be found in the new iOS update into a cable system. In other words, create your own channel where you stream in content from your iPhone or iPad.
This stuff is going to happen. Further, at some point the cable and satellite service providers are going to have to decide whether they want Netflix and Pandora to compete with their offerings, or be built into their offerings.
This new app is nice, but one senses that Comcast is like many newspapers: fighting, kicking and screaming into the new media era.