Xfinity on the Xbox – Sounds Xciting, but….

The new Xfinity Xbox application sounds exciting, but may be more valuable as a marketing channel

Comcast Xfinity
Xfinity Xbox App - Couldn't Remember Password

Xcitement abounded the other night as I downloaded the new Xfinity for Xbox application. Having recently authored a report on multiscreen video, I have waited for this app. Other than forgetting my user name, operation was simple enough and I was viewing on-demand programs in very high quality, high-definition in a flash. Will I regularly use this Xbox application? Probably not and here is why:

  • Log-in – It is a chore to log-in every time one wants to use the app.  Sure, I could stay logged in, but then the little ones in the household would also have access to all the content.  Parental controls, sure I could try that, but I don’t want to invest the 15 minutes required to figure them out and then my kids would hack them anyway.  Because it is an on-screen keyboard, it is fairly easy for someone to see the password (particularly an 11 and 13-year-old with photographic memories).
  • Another App – sure, the Xfinity TV app for android could be extended to allow browsing titles and authentication, so that prying eyes wouldn’t be able to see my password, but that doesn’t seem to exist, at least at this point.  And even if did, whether I will use my phone as a remote is another question.
  • Bandwidth Cap – It surprised me that there was no warning about possibility of exceeding bandwidth cap, but I may be paranoid based on an article I wrote on this topic. Granted, this would be a great deal of TV watching (100 to 800 hours per month by Comcast’s estimate) . [5/15/12 update – Comcast explains in this post that they are using  “Differentiated Services Code Point (“DSCP”) markings” to differentiate Xfinity TV traffic from regular Internet traffic, which means the On-Demand traffic is staying on the Comcast Managed Network].  
  • Lack of Content:  Sure, there was some content, but many of the movies required subscriptions to premium services (which we don’t have).

We will probably continue to watch TV via HDMI-connected PC.   Don’t discount the Xbox as a way to watch video, based on this focus-group of one, as the Xbox has proven to be the most popular platform for at least one Over-the-Top service; Rovi’s CinemaNow (according to Richard Bullwinkle of Rovi speaking the recent OTT Conference).

When I downloaded the app, I must have granted permission to Microsoft to send me blasts about new Comcast releases (I just received the note about Comcast supporting HBO GO).  Prior to this, I had never given Comcast the email address I most often use.  Even if I never use the app again, now Comcast has a marketing channel they never had before; having that way to relay messages to me.  This channel may be even more valuable than the actual Xbox application.

0 thoughts on “Xfinity on the Xbox – Sounds Xciting, but….

  1. As updated above, Comcast is using,

    “Differentiated Services Code Point (“DSCP”) markings to mark the Xfinity TV packets to identify these packets so our network knows that these packets must be transmitted over the separate service flow from the CMTS to the customer’s cable modem.”

    Essentially, this allows Comcast to create a separate, managed network within their broadband offering, reserving some of the bandwidth for managed on-demand content, while leaving the rest for non-managed Internet content. Presumably, the amount of non-managed bandwidth will still meet the peak bandwidth that they are offering their customers.

    I was involved with an operator a couple of years ago that was looking at an analogous approach for a fiber/DSL system. In this case they were going to use some sort of Virtual Private Network approach to create a managed network within the broadband pipe. After much study, the lawyers thought this met the spirit of even the strictest definitions of so-called Net Neutrality rules.

    In Comcast’s post, they emphasize that what they are doing is not traffic prioritization, as stated here:

    “It’s really important to us that we make crystal clear that, in contrast to some other providers, we are not prioritizing our transmission of Xfinity TV content to the Xbox (as some have speculated). While DSCP markings can be used to assign traffic different priority levels, that is not their only application — and that is not what they are being used for here.”

    At least my fears of a bandwidth cap have been allayed. Still, I am not certain I will use the Xbox for watching TV. As an example, the other night I could have done so, but the pain of turning on a computer and connecting an HDMI cord to the TV was less than trying to navigate the Xbox without my teenage son as a guide.

  2. As far as I know, AT&T U-Verse does not throttle or manage Internet TV content to an Xbox. My son has U-Verse with Xbox Gold edition and is able to watch MLB TV (OTTP live video streaming) with no degradation of video/audio quality- I’ve seen it!

    A completely separate issue is how Comcast can allow AT&T to divert smart phone/tablet PC and other would be mobile traffic to their broadband wireline network via AT&T femtocells? This is the case in Blue Lake Springs/Arnold, CA where AT&T gives free femtocells to its iPhone customers on the grounds that they don’t provide ANY wireless service (not data or voice) in rural areas like Arnold, CA. Comcast’s “managed” broadband network is thus carrying would be AT&T 3G wireless traffic for free, yet Comcast doesn’t complain about that! Go figure!

  3. Comcast isn’t throttling data on the unmanaged side either. From my read of Comcast’s post, they are creating a managed path for their own on-demand traffic that connects their VOD servers to the Xbox, where the Xbox is acting as a traditional cable set-top. Like your son, I also have experienced good quality streaming of over-the-top video services to the Xbox.

    Regarding the need for a Femtocell, that is a strong argument for why wireless everywhere isn’t the solution. A strong terrestrial broadband network is needed as well in order to support wireless; whether traditional cell sites or microsites, like the Femtocell.

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