Ultraviolet image of the Sun made up of different images.
The goal of UltraViolet is to allow consumers to view movies they have purchased on multiple devices. (Photo Credit: CC by woodleywonderworks/Flickr)

A large group of tech and media companies have come together to create UltraViolet. The goal of UltraViolet is to make it easier to see movies you have purchased on a wide range of hardware devices. However, despite the large list of supporters for UltraViolet, a Disney-backed competitor 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, purchase 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.

The challenges of UltraViolet

A format war between UltraViolet is already shaping up. Disney is developing its own digital rights management system codenamed KeyChest. With a huge movie library that includes Marvel Entertainment and Pixar studios, Disney controls a large number of popular 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 management system will end up winning?

If we are to use the example of previous format wars, there could be a few years where both systems exist. Eventually, whichever format the pornography industry sides with is likely to win. However, the music industry has long tried to create comparable digital rights management systems, most of which have failed rather spectacularly because of lack of corporate support and customer backlash. It will take a lot to win customer support for either KeyChest or UltraViolet — but it will come down to the library, the support and the user interface.

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