Now Comcast Criticized for Its Philly Pride

Snobs in the tech press slam X1's "Designed by Comcast in Philadelphia" branding. But Comcast is right to boast of its technical prowess — and its hometown.

Well, now Comcast’s critics are just being jerks.

The latest “Comcast sucks” meme — and there’s at least one a week at this point — centers around the company’s branding of the remote control used to operate its X1 cable platform. The back of the remote is now emblazoned with this language: “Designed by Comcast in Philadelphia.”

Philly represent!

It’s become the latest locus of criticism of the company, though, for a couple of reasons. A) Tech writers need a new excuse to bash Comcast and B) the language is a little too close to how Apple brands its products, and my, isn’t that presumptuous of Comcast?

The Verge took one of the first shots:

One of the most recognizable (and perhaps pompous) parts of Apple’s brand is the phrase printed on just about every single product the company makes: “Designed by Apple in California.” It greets you when you open the box of your $3,000 iMac, and is emblazoned in tiny type on the back of the Apple TV remote. It’s unsurprising for a company so focused on design, and some of Apple’s competitors have included similar references on their own flagship products.

So why’s it a big deal that Comcast is doing the same?

That’s some mighty hifalutin talk for a cable box remote.

And then other sites weighed in. BGR thinks it’s ridiculous because Philadelphia isn’t as awesome as California:

It’s hard to lay out the benefits of associating a remote control of all things with Philadelphia, a great city to be sure, but one that doesn’t evoke the same type of imagery as California. Whereas California is synonymous with beaches, movie stars, and technological innovation, Philadelphia brings to mind Benjamin Franklin and the Liberty Bell, or perhaps Boyz II Men and Will Smith if you’re looking for something more recent.

Cult of Mac sneers, as Apple cultists tend to do, at any product’s attempt to compare itself to the magic that comes from Cupertino:

Take a look at the “premium” remote. … Doesn’t exactly come with a Jony Ive-styled simplicity, right?

CNET just expresses confusion:

Maybe Comcast was taking a pointed jab at Apple by slapping Apple’s customary hardware slogan on such a basic device (why it would make such a jab, we’re not sure). Or maybe it just seemed like a nifty line. Who knows?

And Gizmodo bundles the barely disguised Philly contempt, Apple fan-boyism and general tech criticism into one neat package:

Now, this isn’t to say that great things are designed in Philly (love you Philly!) but a Comcast remote is not one of them. On the one hand, it’s a weird attempt to style a mundane piece of electronics as a flagship product of a cable box company. On the other hand, it’s a hilarious way to co-opt Apple’s distinctive design language and it could be a tongue-in-cheek way for that cable company to make fun of itself. Maybe.

We’re big enough to not worry about the implicit digs at Philly, and we’re not going to defend the remote control as anything special. But the phrase itself? Apple has innovated a lot of stuff the last 20 years or so, but “Designed by (Company x) in (Location X)” isn’t really an astounding piece of work. It’s just … information, and not particularly stylish information at that.

But here’s why Comcast’s critics are silly and wrongheaded. It’s not the X1 remote that Comcast is bragging about with that “designed by” statement on the back. It’s the X1 itself that Comcast is laying claim to. The remote is just the part you physically interact with with any regularity, the one part you’re likely to notice a “designed by” statement on.

And no matter your feelings about Comcast as a company, and all the ways it earns and deserves a ton of criticism in the customer service realm (among others), here’s the thing: The X1 is pretty cool — and maybe every bit as awesome in the cable TV sector as Apple is in iPhone and iPad production.

Here’s a GeekWire review of the X1 system to sum it up: “It is a nice blend of Internet content, live television, apps, a multi-tuner DVR and on-demand programming, in one of the cleanest user interfaces that you’ll find from a cable company.”

It’s a pretty typical review. Comcast should show pride in the X1. It’s arguably one of the company’s strongest arguments for the merger with Time Warner Cable. (“We’ve got a monopoly most places we’re at, but we’re still working hard to create cool stuff!”) There are plenty of reasons to criticize Comcast, but the company’s pride in its technical accomplishments — and its home city — are not on that list. They’re good things.

Follow @JoelMMathis on Twitter.