Best Buy announced on Tuesday that it is partnering with Sonic Solutions to use its CinemaNow online video service as the basis for a new offering that will include an ecosystem of connected consumer devices available exclusively at Best Buy’s online and physical retail outlets.
The devices in the ecosystem will use DRM and other technologies from Widevine. Various details have yet to be specified, such as a release timetable, a list of devices to be supported at launch, and any rules for interoperability of content among participating devices.
Still, this announcement represents the fruition of a strategy that Sonic/CinemaNow and Widevine have been pursuing for over a year. With the Best Buy deal, the companies now have a major retail partner. The last piece is now in place to make this service a potentially powerful competitor to the Apple iTunes/iPod/Apple TV axis as well as to services like Blockbuster Online that are based on Microsoft technology.
CinemaNow also incorporates home media interoperability technology from a company called Digital 5, which is now owned by Macrovision. This technology enables some degree of DRM interoperability in the home, but again, it’s unclear to what degree the forthcoming service will use this feature.
Once this service rolls out, consumers should be able to download and play video on a variety of home and portable devices, including PCs, Internet TVs, set-top boxes, Blu-ray Disc and portable media players from makers including Archos, Dell, HP, LG, Microsoft, Nintendo, Pioneer and TiVo.
This could be Widevine’s ticket to the big time, after years of laboring in relative (if reasonably successful) obscurity primarily in the digital pay TV/IPTV content protection space. It gives them access to a much wider variety of consumer devices and the potential to become part of a major digital video axis.
The market for Internet video services is still in early stages; the dominance of Apple in video is far from the foregone conclusion that some think it is. The Best Buy-CinemaNow-Widevine axis could be a contender.