Apple Says Make a Web App! Comcast Has.

Mari Silbey —  June 4, 2010 — 5 Comments

The front page of Techmeme this morning links to several articles debating the nature of the iPhone OS. On the one hand the App Store makes for a closed environment. On the other hand, publishers and developers are not tied to the App Store and can still create content for the browser. Apple is weighing in with its own gallery of demos showing off the capabilities of HTML5 with examples of what developers can do outside the App store paradigm.

The debate reminds me of an encounter I had back at The Cable Show last month. Comcast head honcho Brian Roberts made a splash showing off an app designed to be used as a guide interface for your Comcast TV services. Everyone assumed the application was for the App Store because Roberts ran his demonstration on an iPad. However, cable reporter Todd Spangler and I got the real scoop later that day over in the exhibit hall. The Comcast application is actually a website. It doesn’t include video in the first iteration (commercial release is scheduled for later this year), but there was some allusion to the fact that it easily could in the future using HTML5.

There are a number of interesting issues with the Comcast “Xfinity Remote,” notably the fact that it connects to an EBIF app on set-tops and is being positioned as a way to get around the limitations of current cable EPGs. However, for the purposes of today’s debate, it’s a good example of what can be accomplished on Apple devices beyond the App Store. I’m looking forward to a hands-on test in the coming months.

5 responses to Apple Says Make a Web App! Comcast Has.

  1. A web based app to control a cable box? Yes please! Too bad I don’t have a cable box, but 3 TiVo boxes. I’ve been wishing for various web control things from TiVo for so long.

  2. As I’ve noted before, my primary interest in this is as a hint of what might be possible for Tivo if MSO’s open up to IP-based control schemes. SDV, VOD ordering etc would all be possible without external boxes. Hoping to see something develop on that front but not holding my breath.

    @dream walker yup I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for Tivo here. They’re just so slow moving. It’s getting kind of sad.

    @Mari Thanks for posting this anyway, even if I couldn’t restrict myself to your focus in the story. Sorry. Agree that it’s interesting, notable and encouraging that this was actually a web app. For Comcast it’s a boon-iPad, Android or web can all use the same app. All good.

  3. While it seems clunky to have to out to the world-wide internet just to change your channel 10 feet away, WIFI doesn’t work on the Phone as Remote model since the iPhone drops WIFI when it is sleeping – but the Cellular Data connection is always there.
    So I could pick up my iPhone, swipe to turn it off/unlock it and the remote would be instantly functional.

    But the simpler way would be for the iPhone to provide short range ( < 30 feet) RF remote control. But Comcast boxes don't do RF remotes, so that is a non-starter.

  4. Robert, I think one of my Verizon contacts told me their app(s) which can control their DVRs over the Internet is actually faster than IR. So routing outside the home may not be a deal breaker and would allow you to skip the WiFi sleep issue you mention. Then again, I find my iPhone pretty quickly latches on as needed.

  5. The Apple iOS and app store is like a prison…. that is furnished with really comfy furniture and a big screen TV and well stocked fridge. Sure there are a few things you might have arranged differently and maybe the TV is not the brand you would have picked but all in all – very liveable.

    Now Comcast (of all companies) has shown what I am really waiting for – the new HTML standard that ties all the media craze back into HTML ease of use and deploy. No idea if it will be an iPad or some tablet PC but when HTML5 finally becomes the goto way to develop your media app – then perhaps cable boxes and others will come on board. That way that really nice prison that is the app store can be what it is but the door will be open and I can go out and find the model of TV I want or maybe add a DVR, etc…

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