The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) consortium has announced its consumer brand name: UltraViolet. This is the name that will be used for all DECE-compliant products and services. The company’s press release from Tuesday says that technology specs and licensing agreements are to be available by the end of this year.
The basic idea of DECE/UltraViolet is to offer consumers a way to buy media products — download or streaming — that can be accessed from or stored in a variety of formats and devices. A rights locker tracks users’ purchases and makes their content available in additional formats when users need them, presumably at no extra cost. The rights locker is a central resource to be run by Neustar Inc.; online content retailers will integrate with Neustar’s rights locker. DECE-compliant media files will need to protect content in one of several (currently five) approved DRMs.
The slow pace of DECE progress over the past couple of years has not done wonders for its image in the press, which has been almost entirely skeptical. This week, the launch of the consumer brand without any further technical information has resulted in another wave of press coverage, most of which has been ridden with misinformation, dismissive of “yet another DRM from Hollywood,” or both. Further, the development of DECE has taken place amid a backdrop of major companies launching their own “rights locker” type initiatives, including Best Buy (partnering with Sonic Solutions) and Amazon — as well as Disney offering a putative competing standard called KeyChest whose reality as more than a FUD generator against DECE many are beginning to question.
Standards and consortia are hardly ideal vehicles in which to get things done. They are sometimes necessary because of antitrust constraints placed on entities such as media companies and technology vendors, and they are fundamentally challenged by having to operating in a fast-changing industry landscape. Obviously many companies are attracted to the value proposition for content owners and technology vendors: over 50 such companies are now signed up as DECE members, although only three retailers are on board. But as we say here in America, that’s a lot of cats to herd.
The lack of solid public information about DECE — not even a technical white paper — has not helped matters. The group has released very little substantive information about the technology since I last reported on it back in January. The new UltraViolet website at least attempts to show the consumer value proposition and roadmap for the technology. That’s a step in the right direction. But as UltraViolet’s own roadmap web page shows, it’s a step on a long journey.
(By the way, I have to admit that UltraViolet is a rather clever name: it connotes both “beyond Blu-ray” and “invisible,” both positive associations; although some wags have also mentioned “skin cancer.” I suppose that’s no worse than the biological connotations that some have suggested about the Apple iPad.)