CES Dispatch--Comcast (Sort Of) Gets Aggressive

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts won’t give his keynote speech at the annual Consumer Electronics Show until Jan. 8, but early indications point to a cable company that is getting more aggressive about reaching—and keeping—its customers in the face of growing competition for those subscribers’ time and money. Comcast and Panasonic on Jan. 7 announced a co-branded portable digital video recorder and DVD player that will let Comcast customers record programming at home and take it with them wherever they go on a nifty 8.5-inch folding display and with a built-in 60 GB hard drive. The downside? You have to dock the player and treat it much like a set-top box if you want to record content. It would have been simpler to let users connect via USB to their existing cable set-top box with built-in digital video recorder for fast downloads of recorded shows. Another thing that puzzles me is why the player won’t be available until early 2009. It’s odd that so many companies here are announcing products that won’t really be available for a long, long time, though the competition I mentioned earlier surely has something to do with it. Comcast also is said to be looking at other methods of letting consumers tap into their home cable boxes to grab content, and I expect them to make some sort of announcement on a partnership with a key player in that field soon.

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