Ultraviolet – Get Ready…
Can you tell what it is yet? A much coined phrase by an aged Australian artist and musician. This phrase seemingly rings true with the ideas and images we are getting of UltraViolet. It is just a half formed picture; a series of broad brush strokes painted with an air of stupendous confidence, a painting that could easily still go right or wrong at any moment.
If you know anything about UltraViolet, I commend you. For us regular folk, its the stuff sunglasses protect you from, a truly terribly film only worth watching for Milla Jovovich, the stuff makes things glow at raves and that warm thing gives us a tan. But now that definition is likely to change. UltraViolet is, in its purest form, a cloud based locker of your digital media. It is a way of having all your media purchases instantly available through the cloud anywhere, any time, regardless of how or when you purchased it. What is special about this, is that it is created and endorsed by the UltraViolet Alliance.
The UltraViolet Alliance is not a new corny team of superheroes, but is rather an association of some of the heaviest hitters in the media world. Its the DECE, the Digital Entertainment Consortium Ecosystem. Its members include media companies such as Sky, Warner Bros and Fox; retailers such as Blockbuster, FilmFlex and Best Buy; technologies such as Sony, LG and Samsung. The list is extraordinary and although not including all the biggest names, such as Amazon, Apple or Disney, it is still an impressive list. Between themselves, they have agreed on many aspects of UltraViolet, which aims to pair a digital locker system with your existing physical media purchases, accounts based on residence, and specific devices enabled to play your media. But how will this work?
Firstly you will need to set up an UltraViolet account, and this is tied to your address. On this account you can add up to six users, who will be able to access the media locker you will create. You can add to this locker by purchasing your films, music or other media any way you like – as long as it is tagged as UltraViolet. Then you scan your purchase and the media is added to the locker. UltraViolet lockers will be accessible through any media capable device for which a software upgrade will be created – computers, games consoles, TVs, portable media devices such as phones, tablets, etc. Mobile devices will allow you to download local copies from your locker so it will be available should you stray from network or Wi-Fi coverage.
You will be able to protect your collection from theft or loss – DVDs are hardly the number one target for thieves, but they are easily lost, put in the wrong case, lent to a friend and forgotten about, broken, scratched, melted, burnet, damaged, etc. Though a problem for the careless. Still, a helpful solution. If you are buying your films online already, you may be acutely aware of the limitations of your storage devices. I personally am a fiend for getting my media online, and now have far too many hard drives and memory sticks to keep track of. With an online locker of unlimited storage, it would be much less of a worry. Add to this that just dropping your hard drive can sometimes cause irreparable damage, the idea becomes yet more attractive when stored in the cloud.
UltraViolet will change the way in which you store, collect, purchase and browse media, as well as the potential to explore new media based upon recommendation and direct marketing. This will undoubtedly change the game for consumers and companies alike – hence the huge names signed up to the alliance. However everything you have read up to this point probably leaves you asking more questions rather than giving you all the answers…
Will you be able to add old media you already own?
Some of us have 100s of DVDs already and adding them to a locker could be fantastic at reducing clutter! It is more than likely all new media will begin to carry the UltraViolet logo. The roadmap of implementation and growth suggests that the USA is likely to get going first, with it taking off initially in mid-2011. Canada and the UK are likely to start seeing this happen from late 2011 and early 2012.
Will you have unlimited access on any number of devices?
6 people allowed access, assume each has their own computer, each their own smart phone capable of played UltraViolet media, 2 have tablet devices, 4 have mp3 players, there are 4 TVs in the house and 2 games consoles. That is 24 different devices in this fictitious and tech savvy family. It is hard to imagine that they would all be able to access the one locker. The word on the street, the tech street that is, says a proposition for 12 devices per account is currently being considered.
Will you be able to lend copies of DVDs, or add a friends to your locker?
This is a big problem that the Alliance currently face. They want to ensure file sharing, as that is simply what it would become, is limited. However unique IDs for DVDs, Blurays and other media forms seem impossible. One member suggested prompting users to sporadically place the original copy of the physical media for re-scanning, however this is entirely impractical and defeats the object entirely, let alone would prove frustrating for those utilising their locker whilst travelling.
Will you be able to log in elsewhere?
If you were to buy a film online and then, at a friend’s house, want to watch that film. Oh great – its on the cloud! Given the already potential pitfall of a limited number of registered devices, would there be accessibility from other devices not registered to the account
What is this going to cost?
Who can say. The Alliance has been decidedly vague about this, as they do not wish to set pricing agreements. The decision will be down to the studios who produce the media in the first place. They are inviting entrepreneurs and existing companies to propose novel ways to expand the UV idea, presumably in order to maximise profits and drive down any potential costs. I would imagine the pricing model could well change if this doesn’t prove popular to begin with.
Is this going to work?
The industry looks set to try and force it to work. However with many people buying from iTunes as their first port of call, there is still a lot of work to do without Apple having signed up to the Alliance. There is still every chance that it could end up as successful as the 8-track, the Betamax, the mini-disc or the HD DVD. A lot of these also had cross industry support! Amazon’s recent music cloud storage seems to be a good way of testing the water for UltraViolet – that’s probably why the industry isn’t kicking up such a great fuss.
Wait a second, no Apple?
That’s right. Apple have not signed up to UltraViolet. This would mean that it would be unlikely you would be able to play your locker on any apple device. Who doesn’t have an iPod, iPhone, Mac or iPad these days?! That is one massive target market that UltraViolet won’t be reaching. This could only change if studios supporting UltraViolet pulled their media from iTunes, forcing Apple to bend. However, is this a case of unstoppable force and immovable object? Does it mean that UltraViolet is already dead in the water?
So, can you tell what it is yet?
We can’t. But then, we’ve never thought Rolf was a brilliant artist anyway… All we can suggest to those of you looking to stay at the forefront of home media, and what may well be internationally on-the-go accessible media, is that you check in with UltraViolet’s website and register for their updates at www.uvvu.com. Of course any further news worth mentioning will be posted here. But for now, keep your eyes on the horizon, and make sure you’ve got a good pair of Rayban UV400 shades on!