Earlier this year, Comcast announced their planned launch of SmartZone Communications Center -- targeted for late 2007. Jay Fortner in Read/Write Web offers an excellent description of Smart Zone, components of which will result from Comcast's technology partnerships with Zimbra (messaging) and Plaxo (contact management).
SmartZone Home PageFrom Between the Lines:
Zimbra has a browser-based client and supports Windows, Apple, and Linux desktops, as well as Microsoft Outlook a variety of mobile devices. On the server side, Zimbra supports Red Hat, Mac, Ubuntu, SUSE and Fedora. Version 5.0 is due later this year, and adds numerous features, such as multiple mail identities, personal distribution lists, advanced search in the administration console, instant messaging, external directory support and delegated mailbox and mail folders.
Yahoo!'s acquisition of Zimbra offsets Google's evolving application arsenal. However, I believe that the Zimbra acquisition will be a significant part of a framework leading to a powerful alliance between Yahoo! and Comcast.
The seeds were planted in April 2007 when Yahoo! and Comcast signed an advertising agreement through which Yahoo! will sell online-video and display ads through Comcast.net (the personal portal for Comcast customers). As MarketWatch speculated:
The Yahoo deal underscores the Comcast's commitment to become a destination for Internet as well as television content. Its Internet business could bolster Comcast amid worries TV and film producers will bypass television distributors altogether and pipe content directly to the Web.
Two years earlier, Comcast and TiVo agreed to co-develop a TiVo DVR customized for use on the Comcast cable network. Coincidentally, a new TiVo service provides Yahoo! Photos, Weather, and Traffic. TiVo is an example media that extends the reach of both Comcast- and Yahoo!-fed content.
Consumers are accessing content through a blur of digital media. To remain viable, providers need to deliver content across a growing number of devices -- and do so in a way that is almost transparent to the consumer. Comcast's SmartZone could be a linchpin, and Jason Jones writing in SeekingAlpha has it all figured out.
It is conceivable that SmartZone will be accessible from the Comcast-TiVo box in order to check email and voicemail from your TV. One could imagine adding shows to the SmartZone calendar to be recorded at a later date or emailing clips of recorded shows directly from the set-top box.
It is also conceivable that the Yahoo! and Comcast extend their April advertising agreement to allow cross-advertising, as well as shared development and revenue models.
Comcast uses Google's search engine. However, the Google search contract expires at the end of 2007. It's reasonable to assume that Yahoo! will provide Comcast with search starting January 1, 2008.