Comcast is rolling out its cloud DVR service across the country, beginning the long slog toward a future without set-top boxes.
The new service will let customers stream DVR'd TV recordings to PCs, Macs, iOS devices, and Android devices, even outside the home. It's similar in function to Dish's Hopper DVR, but because the recordings are stored in the cloud, it could eventually allow for new features such as unlimited tuners and unlimited storage, GigaOM reports.
What this means: This is just the first step toward eliminating the DVR box altogether. At first, cloud DVR will simply allow Comcast to install set-top boxes without hard drives, but it's not hard to imagine an all-streaming service supplemented by cloud recordings, delivered straight to connected TVs, phones, tablets and laptops. As GigaOM points out, Comcast already offers a streaming service—albeit without DVR—at select universities.
For now, however, the cloud DVR service is still tied to a traditional DVR box. For customers who have the newer X1 boxes, Comcast will simply make a duplicate recording in the cloud, allowing for remote access. Hard drive-free boxes will come later.
In a way, Comcast is just moving toward what Apple envisioned years ago. Rumors have long-suggested that Apple wanted to build its own TV service with cloud DVR as a centerpiece, but was never able to secure the rights for TV content. Comcast is in a much better position to get those streaming rights from media companies, though it may have trouble creating the same level of user experience that Apple imagined.
Comcast had quietly launched the service in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Philadelpha and Washington D.C. earlier this year, and has just flipped the switch in San Francisco and Houston. The company expects that all X1 users will get cloud DVR by year-end. Existing customers who have an X1 box will need to request the functionality, according to Comcast's FAQ page.