Hollywood pushes movie streaming standard, UltraViolet

Hollywood studios and tech firms are pushing a streaming standard called UltraViolet

The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), a group of 58 Hollywood studios and technology companies, is pinning its hopes for the future of entertainment on UltraViolet, an online digital locker that would allow you to buy a movie once, and stream it over the Internet for free on any other compatible devices.

UltraViolet won't be a store, but a standard, like BluRay, DVD, or MP3. On board to deploy it sometime this year are Hollywood studios like Sony Pictures, Paramount, and Lionsgate, technology companies like HP, LG, Intel, Nokia, Panasonic, Philips, Sony, and Toshiba, and content distributors like Comcast and Netflix.

Basically, UltraViolet unifies the various Digital Rights Management (DRM) solutions into one standard, which would theoretically give your more freedom to roam your content on a broader range of compatible devices.

How UltraViolet Will Work

At the beginning, UltraViolet will work only with movies and TV shows, with the hope to expand with music and e-books. When you buy a BluRay disc or a DVD with the UltraViolet logo (pictured) on it, you will receive a token, or proof or purchase.

This token would allow you to register your purchase with the UltraViolet online digital locker. After that, you would be able to stream the movie over the Internet for free on a variety of devices, either through a set-top box on your TV, or on your mobile phone, tablet, etc.

Many Unanswered Questions

Besides a general idea of how it would work, there are little other details about UltraViolet. It's unknown whom or where the movies will be hosted, so that you can stream them over the Internet on your devices.

There's no mention whether you can bring in UltraViolet's library your old DVDs and BluRay discs, or with how many members of your family you will be able to share your library.

There is very little detail on how the token system would work. Initially, retailers would send your purchases or rentals information to your digital locker, but it's unknown whether this process would be instantaneous, or users will have to take any further steps.

Pricing is a mystery for UltraViolet-enabled discs as well, and we don't know whether these discs will come at an extra, or how much an UltraViolet-compatible set-top box would cost.

The Notable Holdout

There are two major players in the entertainment industry missing from UltraViolet: Apple, and Disney (where Apple CEO Steve Jobs is the largest shareholder). Apple already uses its own FairPlay DRM for movies and TV shows sold through the iTunes Store, which allows you to play the files on up to 5 Apple devices. Disney is also working on KeyChest, its own digital vault solution.

If UltraViolet will prove to be a success with consumers, Apple might see itself forced to join the alliance, but so far, the company controls the elephant in the room, the iTunes Store, and wouldn't need to joint the UltraViolet program.

What do you make of UltraViolet? Would it be something you might consider using, or would you prefer ripping your own movies to port them between devices? Sounds off in the comments.

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Daniel Ionescu

PC World (US online)
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