Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

"UltraViolet" Is Short for "Giant Media DRM Cloud Coalition Featuring Everyone Except Apple and Disney"

Small steps! The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, a coalition of tech and entertainment companies that’s supposed to create a seamless, cloud-based, consumer-friendly media network, now has a brand name: “UltraViolet.” And a logo, too.

Next step is getting the thing up and running. But the DECE, which has nearly 60 companies signed on and has been working on this stuff for a couple years, says it’s getting closer.

By the end of this year, it promises to have tech specs and licensing details ready to go. So perhaps you’ll have a piece of equipment with this icon in your living room in 2011:

Then there’s the real question: Will you have any interest in this stuff?

The DECE is either wildly ambitious or unwieldy and destined to fail, depending on your perspective. And it’s also a little nebulous and hard to explain.

But the gist is that it creates a system that allows you to consume movies, TV shows, etc., on a variety of devices. And it’s supposed to manage the confusing world of digital rights management–the media companies’ lock-and-key system–via a Web-based account, so that you don’t have to think about it.

That’s not a terrible pitch, right? But this supposes that a group featuring everyone from Microsoft (MSFT) to Intel (INTC) to Sony (SNE) to Time Warner’s (TWX) Warner Bros. can work together to produce a decent consumer experience. If you’re skeptical about this, you’re not alone.

And DECE’s other big problem is the absence of two companies: Apple (AAPL) and Disney (DIS). The latter is creating Keychest, its own, equally confusing cloud-based DRM management scheme. And the former is, well, Apple.

Steve Jobs’s go-it-alone approach to software and media standards has worked out pretty well for him so far. Hard to see that changing. And hard to see an industry standard that doesn’t work with Apple getting much traction. See: Windows Media Audio.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus