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Comcast testing out new set-top box to compete with Google TV

Broadcast networks might not like Google's version of "connected TV," but they might tolerate Comcast's version, which is currently being tested under the code-name "Xcalibur." According to the Wall Street Journal, the cable giant's new set-top box, which combines the usual DVR features with Web features, is being tried out by Comcast customers in August, Georgia.

Broadcast networks might not like Google's version of "connected TV," but they might tolerate Comcast's version, which is currently being tested under the code-name "Xcalibur." According to the Wall Street Journal, the cable giant's new set-top box, which combines the usual DVR features with Web features, is being tried out by Comcast customers in August, Georgia.

If you don't live there, it doesn't sound like you're missing out on the great convergence device we've all been waiting for. The Journal describes the offering as including "a smattering of Web video" and "basic connections to social networks to comment on television shows" -- and no full browsing of the Internet. Clearly, it's a first toe in the water for Comcast in the wild world of Internet TV, so it can add features before it offers a wider roll-out -- or scuttle it altogether. There's no word on how the company would price the box and service were it to become a fully available offering, though Comcast should be aiming low if it keeps that limited functionality.

In theory, cable companies venturing into the realm of connected set-top boxes won't have the same problem that Google TV has run into -- they don't need a way to give users access to broadcasters Web sites since that content already exists on its channel lineup and in its on-demand library. On the other hand, they aren't about to let your access your streaming Netflix account from their boxes. So as with every other Web video box available to date, Comcast's trial with Xcalibur is full of compromises that won't let it completely satisfy users, but could placate content owners and maybe get subscribers to think twice before cutting the cord and buying a Google TV device.