June 17, 2011 at 4:14 PM ET
By Todd Bishop
The rise of free online alternatives to traditional cable television means the big cable operators will need to roll out user-experience innovations to keep those users in the fold. Cable giant Comcast this week showed where it’s headed — demonstrating a next-generation Xfinity TV interface that incorporates and tries to improve upon approaches from the traditional online world.
One of them: Facebook integration, including a feature called "Friend Trends," showing the content most popular among the viewer's Facebook friends on Hulu, Netflix, the web and television. It’s part of a broader trend in the tech industry toward using Facebook "likes" to improve search results. (See also Microsoft Bing.)
"The guide becomes what your friends tell you to watch, not what the linear alphabet tells you your options are,” says Comcast CEO Brian Roberts in the video below, from the National Cable & Telecommunications Show in Chicago yesterday.
The demo starts at 3:30. Also see notes from presentation below.
Simpler remote uses RF (radio frequency) vs. the traditional infrared to transmit signals, which eliminates the need to be in the direct line of sight of the signal receiver in the cable box.
The system is currently in testing in Augusta, Ga. We checked with the company, but there's no official word yet on when it will be rolled out nationally.
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