Ultraviolet format, meet the DVD
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Ultraviolet format, meet the DVD

In a move that could bring the UltraViolet proposal closer to our homes, some at the major film studios want to take advantage of UltraViolet to prevent DVD libraries from being rendered obsolete in a format upgrade, according to a "CNET" report (http://macte.ch/VIi18).

But first some back ground: in July 2010, a group of media and electronics companies have announced an agreement on an all-formats system called UltraViolet for digital downloads. The single standard will, at least in theory, allow the consumer to purchase films to be viewed on any device -- a computer, smartphone, game console, Blu-ray player, and television. And it sounds like something Apple would like, but that remains to be seen.

Backed by 48 companies -- including film studios such as Paramount, Warner Bros., Sony and Fox, and tech firms like Microsoft, Toshiba, Panasonic as well as Intel and Comcast -- the consortium, called the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) covers the spectrum of entertainment, software, hardware, and retail companies. The only holdouts are the Walt Disney Company, which has developed its own system called KeyChest, and, yep, Apple.


According to the DECE, consumers will be able to create free, cloud-based UltraViolet accounts, which will include a digital rights locker and allow them to manage all of their UltraViolet-branded content, regardless of where it was purchased. UltraViolet is designed for UltraViolet-enabled movies and TV shows to be available in traditional physical stores, online movie stores, and on the growing number of web-based services that let consumers download content through game consoles, smart phones, Internet-connected TVs and Blu-ray players -- as well the new devices being invented every day.

With UltraViolet, due to start rolling this spring, consumers will purportedly be able to shop at their choice of participating retailers -- including stores with whom they already have relationships. A few clicks will link a retail account to the UltraViolet Account. Then consumers simply shop as usual; when they make purchases, a right is automatically added to their UltraViolet Account, unlocking the benefits of UltraViolet.

UltraViolet is designed with families in mind, according to the DECE. Multiple UltraViolet devices can share a single UltraViolet Account, which means that Bobby’s smart phone, Sally’s laptop, Jimmy’s game console and Mom & Dad’s TV can all access the same UltraViolet content.

The UltraViolet experience will be powered by a cloud-based UltraViolet Account, which will include a Digital Rights Locker and account management functionality. Consumers will be able to create an UltraViolet Account, free of charge, via one of the participating UltraViolet service providers or through the UltraViolet web site. Once created, this account will purportedly allow consumers to access and manage all of their UltraViolet entertainment, regardless of where it was purchased.

Now a new twist may be added. "CNET" says one new feature being discussed at UV calls for asking users to load their DVDs into their computers so UV can scan them and verify they possess the movies. After verification, UV would place a copy of the film in the person's digital locker.

As "CNET" notes, typically, when media sectors have changed distribution formats, consumers are forced to shell out more money to update existing libraries. VHS tapes couldn't play on DVD players and CD players were incompatible with vinyl albums.

"But even as progressive as this sounds, some studio execs acknowledge that moving the public to a new format now won't be easy," "CNET" adds. "=For one thing, UV's launch is coming up fast and important details still need to be hashed out. Insiders say consortium members still can't agree on several important issues regarding security and whether to offer UV in high-def. Some studios involved are worried that some among them will break ranks and offer content to other locker services in addition to UV, which could undermine UV's negotiating power."

Despite some glitches, UV has enormous potential. Let's hope that Apple gets on board -- unless it and Disney have an even better solution with KeyChest.

-- Dennis Sellers

 
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