UltraViolet aims to simplify movie ownership

Betamax

A chief complaint of consumers is the need to constantly re-purchase films after the format goes out of date. Ultraviolet aims to fix this. Image: Flickr/jayceeloop

A huge consortium of media and technology companies have announced the launch of UltraViolet. Designed to be a “digital movie locker” and media management system, UltraViolet aims to allow consumers to view movies they’ve purchased on multiple devices. UltraViolet has a huge list of supporters, but a competitor called KeyChest is already on the horizon.

UltraViolet creates a cloud-based ‘movie token’

With about 60 member companies, the digital consortium that has created UltraViolet is full of heavy hitters. The basic idea is that a cloud-based account at UltraViolet — uvvu.com — will track and record film purchases. Customers will then be able to use this “digital token” that will allow them to play the film on a wide variety of devices and services. In other words, buy a movie on Comcast, then play it on Netflix. Buy a Blu-ray DVD, then play the film on your smartphone. The goal is ultimate cross-compatibility with minimal hassle.

Ultraviolet’s competitors and challenges

Though UltraViolet has a huge list of supporting companies, a format war is already shaping up. Much like the Blu-ray versus HD-DVD and BetaMax versus VHS wars, this one has two major players. Disney is working on its own digital rights management system called KeyChest. With a huge movie library that includes Marvel Entertainment and Pixar studios, Disney controls a large number of movies. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, also serves as a board member and stockholder of the company. Apple has not signed onto UltraViolet, and it is likely that its iOS technology will not allow app developers to put UltraViolet on their devices.

Which digital management system will win?

If previous format wars are any indication, there will be several years where both formats for digital rights management will co-exist. Eventually, whichever format the pornography industry sides with is likely to win. However, the music industry has long tried to create similar digital rights management systems, most of which have failed rather spectacularly because of lack of corporate support and customer backlash. The way to win for either Ultraviolet or KeyChest will be a compelling library, huge amounts of corporate support and the ease of use that so many customers have come to expect.

Other recent posts by bryanh