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Comcast's new DVR ditches the hard drive, stores your recordings in the cloud

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Comcast XI3 network cable box
Comcast XI3 network cable box

Comcast has just announced the X2, the latest version of its cloud-connected X1 entertainment platform. X2 uses the new XI3 DVR, which uses cloud storage for your recorded shows — in fact it doesn't even have a hard drive for local storage. The box itself is three times smaller and uses 50 percent less energy as a result, and you can now access your recorded shows from a variety of devices, including smartphones and tablets. The XI3 is also said to be four times faster than the typical cable box in use today.

The new X2 platform offers a number of enhancements over Comcast's existing X1 service, including personalized home screens that sync across your TV and apps on mobile devices, more recommendations for new shows and content, the ability to start watching on-demand content on one device and then continue it on another, and social integration. Comcast is also upgrading its existing X1 service today to support web video, enabling customers to send video content from their PC or mobile device to their X1 set-top box for viewing on TV. It's essentially Comcast's version of Apple's AirPlay feature.

The path to move your recorded shows from the cable box in your living room to the cloud for easy access has been pretty difficult for cable companies to navigate. Cablevision spent years in court fighting broadcasters for the right to move the recordings to its own servers, with the Supreme Court eventually electing not to hear the case, giving Cablevision a victory by default. Cablevision announced last year that it would launch its own cloud-based DVR service to all of its customers following a trial run in a handful of markets. Comcast's NBC owners may have made it easier for it to launch a cloud-based DVR without much trouble, however.

Comcast still only has its X1 service available in 12 markets, with recent expansion to include Washington DC. The X2 platform is scheduled to launch later this year, but it's not clear exactly how many markets it will be available in at that time.