Comcast wants to take on Google and Amazon as a smart-home hub

Comcast’s new product would let people stream from apps like Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime. 


Comcast

Cable giant Comcast may be taking on Amazon and Google to be the commander of your smart home. 

Comcast is testing a program that would allow its broadband-only customers to turn their TVs into smart-home hubs, according to a person familiar with the matter. The program uses Comcast’s existing hardware as well as the software powering its X1 video service to make the TV a place where internet-only households can control things like connected light bulbs or security cameras with voice commands. 

Comcast’s move would be a first shot at taking on Amazon and Google, which have so far dominated the battle to be your go-to system for consolidating smart-home devices and making them simple to control. Connected locks and thermostats are still niche for most homeowners, but companies like Google and Amazon have been investing aggressively in the hope of becoming the standard system when smart homes becomes the norm. 


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Comcast’s test program also streams internet video from apps like Netflix, YouTube and Amazon, the person said, but it isn’t meant to compete with the streaming-media boxes like Roku, Apple TV or Amazon’s Fire TV. Comcast could charge a monthly fee for the program, but business model and the price haven’t been decided, the person added. 

Earlier Wednesday, CNBC reported that Comcast is developing a product that’ll let its broadband-only customers aggregate streaming apps like Netflix and YouTube using a voice remote and could also serve as a hub for the connected home. 

So far, smart speakers have been the main catalyst behind the burgeoning smart-home device market, and Google and Amazon have emerged as the two leaders: Amazon’s Echo speaker holds 70 percent of smart-speaker market, with Google Home chasing it with 25 percent. But more recently, companies have been jockeying to offer smart-home hubs with video displays. Amazon unveiled its Echo Show display last year, which it revamped in September. And last month, Google introduced a countertop display called Home Hub. 

But the rest of the competitors in the home-hub display race rely on Amazon and Google. Facebook’s Portal, for example, uses Amazon’s Alexa, and products like Lenovo Smart Display or JBL Link View are powered by Google Assistant. 

Comcast, however, has already built a platform that supports smart-home devices like connected door locks, thermostats and lights though the biggest screen in every house: the TV. Its X1 system primarily serves as way for Comcast’s cable video subscribers to watch their TV programming, but it also supports smart-home devices already. X1 has also already integrating streaming video services like Netflix and YouTube, and it has a remote that responds to voice commands. 

Comcast detailed its smart-home ambitions for its traditional X1 service earlier this year at CES. By extending the home-hub concept to Comcast’s broadband-only subscribers, the company would also introduce on-ramps for broadband-only customers to upgrade to Comcast’s cable video service or its home security offerings, the person familiar with the matter said. 

There weren’t details about which smart-home device makers would be supported by the broadband-only program, but Comcast’s Xfinity partner program already includes August, Carrier, Chamberlain, Ecobee, GE, Honeywell, Kwikset, Nest, Philips Hue, Singled, Tile and Zen.

Originally published at 4:24 p.m. PT.
Corrected at 7 p.m. PT: Clarifies that the broadband-only program’s business model hasn’t been decided. 

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