The concept of digital content, as proposed by the DECE consortium (digital entertainment content ecosystem), is entering a new phase with a catchy brand name (UltraViolet) and recognisable logo. If it’s up to the 60 members of the consortium, UltraViolet will be the virtual successor to Blu-ray. Besides the name, and with less flourish, the group also commented on the long-awaited technical specifications. The first half of 2010 was apparently not doable, and now we will have to wait for their release sometime in H2.

UltraViolet’s goal is clear and includes the following elements:

• Physical storage media can be phased out. A noble aim already from an environmental standpoint and given the popularity of iTunes an opportunity-rich idea.
• Access from any given broadband connection. Acquiring multiple copies or making a copy will be a thing of the past.
• Consumption is possible on any device: a TV, smartphone, computer, netbook, or even a games console or Blu-ray player.
• The consumer can choose between streaming and downloading.
• Copyrights are secured with a DRM system (digital rights management). Without this the entire American film industry would likely not cooperate with DECE. Various standards have already been agreed.

What now needs to follow is the technical specifications for producers to deliver content, consumers to access it and everything to run ‘seamlessly’ on different networks and devices. To start with, a new file format is needed (perhaps something like .uv?). Then the user needs to be able to open an account (via a service provider or direct from UltraViolet at www.uvvu.com). With that you can manage your content, which is available in a ‘digital rights locker’. All the content, services and devices with the UltraViolet logo are guaranteed interoperable.

The big question is now: will UltraViolet become a real consumer name and make everyone forget about the CD and DVD? Below a few obstacles along the way.

1. Broadband is not yet universally available. Think of places like in the car, outside areas, etc. Streaming will not work in these kind of places, pushing consumers towards downloads.
2. The delay in technical details suggests a high level of complexity, and likely also the complexity of managing a consortium with 60 members.
3. Not ‘everyone’ is in DECE: Disney, Apple and Amazon are the big names missing, which could lead to a ‘standards war’. Disney is working on its own system (KeyChest) and Apple has iTunes.
4. The new concept of a ‘digital rights locker’ raises the possibility of new forms of copyright infringement. How do you prevent an active trade in access codes?
5. How many family members and children can share their parents’ lockers? Will the number of devices on which the content can be used be limited? What happens when someone dies, do all the access rights expire? How are these rights inherited?

Conclusion: UltraViolet is not yet there and a lot of questions still need to be answered by the technical specifications. The future is particularly uncertain due to Disney and Apple not (yet) participating. Who’s waiting for a system with three accounts (UltraViolet, KeyChest, iTunes), not to mention their ‘legacy’ collectioning of CDs, DVDs and MP3s, all incompatible and not available on every device?