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Comcast tests Internet + Cable device, code-named ‘Xcalibur’

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Comcast is scared you’re going to leave it for the Web. The cable company is testing a new cable system that lets users watch cable as well as a limited number of Web videos. The service will also integrate social media so users can comment on shows and better allow users to search through live, on-demand, and recorded (DVRed) programs. Comcast is calling the new service “Xcalibur,” likely hoping it will allow the company to continue to rule the world in the Internet age.

We’ve known for some time that Comcast is working on a set-top box code-named “Parker,” of Spider-Man fame. The new box receives video via the Internet, allowing faster and more flexible delivery of content. The new device is said to allow you to browse through menus while still watching TV. It is unknown if these projects are the same or will be combined.

“We are testing many technological approaches to understand how best to meet consumer interests, and this small trial is one of those experiments,” said a Comcast spokesperson in response.

Comcast has not decided whether it will ultimately implement this seemingly necessary system or how it will price it. If we were to guess, we’d say that the new Internet/Cable system will be priced deceptively low and then suddenly get very expensive after 3-6 months. It may also come with standard with regular outages and poor customer service.

A necessary move

The move is necessary for Comcast, however. The cable giant has begun shedding customers. In the third quarter of 2010, 335,000 households dropped their cable service, the first such decline in history, says the Wall Street Journal. 275,000 of those households were Comcast customers. Granted, there are 100 million people who have cable, and Comcast has 22.9 million subscribers, but the numbers are not insignificant. Comcast expects at least as many people to drop its service in the final quarter of 2010. The company says the Internet has little to do with the drop in subscribers, which it blames on customers choosing to watch TV over the air with a digital antenna.

Competitors aren’t waiting. Time Warner Cable’s Chief Executive Glenn Britt said that it will begin delivering video to Internet TVs without a cable box as soon as next year.