While CES now feels like forever ago, we’re still catching up on some of our notes and leftover photos. Among them are scrawled observations and camera shots covering the “magical” new TV interface introduced by Cisco and Cox. (Yes, someone actually used that word.) I was struck by two things during the presentation that Dave and I attended. First, the Cox Trio TV user interface and accompanying iOS app are beautiful. But second, they don’t do anything that I don’t already expect the next-generation of electronic program guides to do.
The updated Trio HD guide (built by NDS, now Cisco) rolled out to Cox customers in December, but the latest iOS app was unveiled for the first time at CES. (An Android version is reportedly scheduled for Q1.) In addition to cosmetic touch-ups, the Trio HD update includes the ability to establish profiles for individual users, and provides new personalized content recommendations that cut across live TV, future broadcast listings, and video on demand.
The new iOS app, meanwhile, works with iPads, iPhones and iPods, streams 90 Cox television channels, and provides access to the full Cox VOD library. It doesn’t use the same UI as Trio, but because the underlying information is delivered from the cloud (that magical place in the sky), it does support the same user profiles. It also relies on the same ThinkAnalytics content recommendation engine accessed by the Trio EPG.
In the future, Cox plans to offer new features that allow subscribers to stream content from a second-screen device to the TV, and to move recorded content in the other direction from a DVR to a tablet or smartphone. Exactly how it plans to enable those features, however, is still in question. Cox says it will launch a new IP video gateway – six tuners, 2TB of storage – from Cisco in the first quarter of this year, and presumably that will facilitate the transfer of content between TV STB and mobile devices. We’re lacking details for now, however, on how Cox will handle video transcoding and content protection. It’s those details that will determine how much consumers can expect from the experience, both in terms of performance and how much content studios make available for device transfer.
For now, the coolest feature by far that Dave and I saw in the new Cox iOS app was the ability to swipe between live television channels. You can literally see one channel on part of the screen while wiping to a second live channel from above or below.
Of everything Cox and Cisco showed, that was the one thing that struck me as entirely new. The two companies are certainly making progress with the television interface, but after following the evolution of pay-TV services for so long, I was hoping for a little more. Shouldn’t we be past this point by now? The revolution is taking too long.