The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) issued a press release in conjunction with last week’s massive CES trade show in Las Vegas. The verbiage in the press release proclaimed “series of milestones in the development and availability of UltraViolet™,” the latter being the brand name attached to DECE-compliant products and services.
So what, for those of us who have been following DECE’s progress over the past couple of years, are those milestones? The most interesting actual accomplishment is one that, unfortunately, I can’t tell you much about: DECE has completed a technical specification. I filled out a web form to request one, hoping that I could have read and written about it by now, but I haven’t gotten it yet.
There are two possible reasons for this: first, the folks at DECE are too busy with CES-related business and haven’t gotten around to it; second, they have decided to make DECE a closed club and not reveal any details without a paid-up evaluation license and/or a nondisclosure agreement. I’ll reserve judgment until a little later on, but let’s just say (once again) that the latter would be a bad idea.
Apart from the spec, the press releases discloses a few items of interest. One is that DECE has set usage rules for UltraViolet accounts. Recall that the heart of UltraViolet is a so-called rights locker service, which is run by the company Neustar. If you buy a movie or other piece of content, Neustar makes a record of your purchase in the central rights locker. This gives you the right to download that content onto any of your UltraViolet-compliant devices, to obtain a physical copy (e.g. on Blu-ray), and to stream it to virtually any web browser through your UltraViolet account.
Now we know that there will be limits to the number of users who and devices that can share content from a single UltraViolet account: 6 and 12 respectively. This is meant to represent the size of a family and its devices. In other words, DECE has decided that the only reasonable way to define what is known as a domain — a group of users and devices, such as all those in a family — is to put limits on users and devices. Other possible techniques include allowing devices within geographic proximity of one another to be in the same domain, but that doesn’t allow for portable or automotive use.
One presumes that those numbers represent a consensus of the content licensors involved in DECE, which include all major movie studios except Disney. But expect those numbers to be points of contention in the future. We’ve seen this before regarding such scenarios as the number of devices that can play content from an iTunes account (five) or the number of devices that can read an e-book in Adobe’s DRM (six, though the number has varied over the years).
Another interesting tidbit from the press release is that the voice of DECE is no longer Mitch Singer, CTO of Sony Pictures and DECE President; it is now Mark Teitell, DECE General Manager. This is evidence that the backers of DECE are investing in resources to make it happen, a good sign.
Otherwise, the CES press release is primarily a series of pre-announcements, a roadmap:
- By the middle of this year, the rights locker infrastructure will be up and running, and the first UltraViolet-based retail services will launch.
- By the end of this year, software updates to PCs and other devices will become available, enabling them to become UltraViolet-compatible. This means, among other things, to be able to read the DECE Common File Format and to interoperate it with one of the five DECE-approved DRMs.
- By early next year (presumably by CES 2012), the first UltraViolet-compatible devices will hit the market.
We’ll see how well DECE fares in meeting those milestones with a critical mass of retail service providers and (eventually) devices. But for now, I’d settle for a copy of that spec.