Comcast Testing Super Set-Top Box That Does Cable TV and Web Video

Comcast subscribers in Augusta, Georgia are currently playing guinea pig for a new set-top box that lets them watch internet video in addition to regular TV (and search seamlessly across both). But should one cable box have all that power?

The service, codenamed "Spectrum" and "Xcalibur," is one of several experiments the cable giant is conducting as it looks to the future and the inevitable convergence of TV and internet. According to the WSJ, the new boxes can access a "smattering of Web video" and some social networks, though they don't offer full web browsing like Google TV. Still, the web video served by the new boxes, as well as live TV, DVR and OnDemand content, is fully searchable with a new "fluid and graphical" interface.

I'm of two minds about this! On one hand, I've got it in my head that it would be really cool to watch Vimeo videos on my TV; on the other, I know there's no way in hell that Vimeo is included in the "smattering" of web videos Comcast's deigning to serve to my TV. And that's essentially the rub here—cable companies, whose dinosaur boxes occupy some space in all of our TV rooms, have unparalleled access to put internet on our TVs with little headache or hardware. But that's going to be the internet on their terms, and we've seen how they're not afraid to throw their muscle around to protect their interests.

Comcast says they're not sure if or when they'll launch the mega-boxes, though it's hard to imagine that serving up just enough internet content to keep the Google TVs and Apple TVs and Rokus of the world out of living rooms isn't part of their master plan. At least there's that fluid interface to look forward to! [WSJ]

Image credit: Mr. T in DC