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To Xfinity and Beyond

May 12, 2010

In the past couple of days I’ve had a number of interesting interactions with Comcast’s new Xfinity (brand?):

First, I’ve discovered that contrary to all the talk in the Engadget HD Podcast UStream, the introductory deals are not available for existing customers no matter how much “they” carp.

Second, with the elimination of almost all analog changes have come three free “digital tuners” but not free CableCards. Comcast now charges $8/month for each CableCard beyond the first, up from $5 per month. There are a raft of new digital channels like Comedy Central HD and G4 HD, but most of the new channels are in Spanish or additional premium channels (e.g. an extra 10 Encore channels).

Third, the video on demand delivered to PCs is still very much a beta product. It seems to rely on a bunch of shaky technologies cobbled together (e.g. Flash, Air and Java)—always a recipe for reliability. When it works it is nice to have that huge selection of programming available on demand from a PC (especially because as users of a CableCard Media Center PC, this is our home’s only way to access Comcast’s on demand offerings). But when it doesn’t work, e.g. on a laptop connected via 802.11g wireless ethernet, there is not much there tech support can do to help. I will say, however that the tech I talked to seemed more knowledgeable that the average cable technical support rep. Note as well that this Xfinity service is only available on three PCs.

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