Ina Fried

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Comcast Unit Finds New Use for the iPhone: Getting Work Done

While plenty of people are using their iPhones and iPads to watch video, Comcast also thinks Apple’s mobile devices can play a role in helping professional video get onto the Internet.

ThePlatform, a subsidiary of the cable giant, plans this week to launch a program that will allow workers whose job it is to post video content to use their iPhone to manage certain functions.

Workers will still have to use a PC or Mac to do the main work, but the iPhone app will allow basic tasks such as publishing a previously hidden piece of content (or taking down a piece that got published inadvertently).

“With the iPhone being a fairly ubiquitous device for media consumption, we felt it was also the perfect platform for media management,” said Ian Blaine, the CEO of thePlatform, which Comcast acquired in 2006. “It’s usually along with people wherever they are.”

Though clearly a niche product, it is the kind of application that many expect to see more of as businesses find ways of incorporating mobile devices into their office worfklow.

“I think what we are doing is a harbinger for others if they are not doing it already,” Blaine said.

Mpx, the main program developed by thePlatform, is used by Comcast itself and also sold to other cable providers such as Time Warner Cable, Cablevision and Cox, as well as by individual content producers such as NBC, PBS and Canada’s CBC. Mpx is used to edit and prepare video for sending to various devices, including phones, computers and set-top boxes.

“We’ve always been in the game of publishing to mobile devices, but being able to take advantage of the platform for actually publishing is pretty great and we are excited about it,” Blaine said.

The company has been testing the product with a few of its customers. Among those excited about the new mobile version of mpx are the folks at Time Warner Cable who use thePlatform to publish their content.

“We have been working with thePlatform to create a solution that supports our producers or editors responsible for ensuring that shows or clips are ready for publication, 24 hours a day,” said Eric Manchester, a member of Time Warner Cable’s technical staff. “Having a solution we can carry on us at all times allows us to solve many time sensitive issues without being tied to our desks.”

For now, those using the iPhone app will see only thumbnails of the videos in question, but Blaine said adding full-video previews is tops on the company’s list of features to add. It will also see if there is a way to achieve similar capabilities on the BlackBerry, given that many companies also use those devices.

With Android, Blaine said the company may not even need to do a separate app because the desktop version of mpx runs using Flash, which Android supports.

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