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Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Microsoft Corporation (MSFT)’s Smart TVs: Too Little, Too Late?

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is widely expected to unveil a smart TV sometime in the near future. At the same time, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)‘s latest console — the Xbox One — has many smart TV-esque features.

Given the current state of TV — clunky interfaces, confusing remotes — one might be inclined to believe that these products will be incredibly successful. In the past, I’ve written that the TV-capabilities of Microsoft’s Xbox One should give it a mass-market appeal.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)

But this week, Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) unveiled something that could change all that. The company’s new platform, X2, has a number of incredible new features — features that could incline Comcast subscribers to avoid expensive, smart TV solutions.

The appeal of smart TVs

As Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s CEO Tim Cook told Brian Williams last December, TV is an area of technology that’s been left behind. Although the amount of available content has risen dramatically, interfaces remain sluggish and confusing.

Searching for shows, accessing on demand content, or browsing for interesting programs has grown increasingly difficult. Meanwhile, outside of Logitech International SA (USA) (NASDAQ:LOGI)’s expensive smart remotes, controlling a home theater setup has become nearly impossible — alternating between numerous remotes, each with dozens of buttons, is largely a necessity.

Apple and Microsoft’s solutions

Smart TVs can change that, to some extent. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s product hasn’t been unveiled yet, but analysts have speculated that the company is planning a full TV set with built-in functionality. Perhaps a camera for FaceTime, and the ability to run iOS apps. Siri would be expected to make an appearance, and iPad and iPhone connectivity seems like a foregone conclusion.

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s Xbox One has those exact capabilities. All Xbox Ones come bundled with Microsoft’s next-generation Kinect. The sensing bar allows users to search for shows with their voice, control their TVs with hand gestures, and connect to tablets with the Smart Glass app.

Comcast’s X2 platform

But while those products sound promising, the tech giants may have been too slow to act. Earlier in the week, Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) unveiled its new, X2 platform. Based on the presentation Comcast gave, X2 appears to be the most advanced interface ever offered by a cable company, and one that could make smart TVs redundant.

For starters, Comcast has done away with the traditional DVR. All content is now stored on the Internet, in the cloud. Presumably, this will allow subscribers to do things like access their DVR programs when they aren’t at home.

The actual local box interface appears to be far more advanced, with Rotten Tomatoes and Twitter integration. It has the ability to recommend shows, and helps subscribers discover new content.