While there have been some rumblings about Ultraviolet in recent months, it only just now got it’s official kick-off announcement at the CES 2011 show.  Ultraviolet is a digital video content storage and distribution solution that will allow consumers to store digital movies and television shows on a cloud-based server and access them from any device they wish–for download or streaming.

Ultraviolet has the backing of some of the biggest players in technology and online video.  Here’s just a short list:

  • Best Buy
  • HP
  • Netflix
  • Microsoft
And now they also have the blessing of the six major Hollywood studios:
  • Warner Brothers
  • Lionsgate
  • Paramount
  • Sony
  • Twentieth Century Fox
  • Universal

Which means that you’d better pay attention to Ultraviolet–it’s not going away anytime soon.  In fact, you probably won’t have any choice but to pay attention to it, since it seems like the entire entertainment industry is going all-in on this one.

And the reason is obvious.  They’re trying to avoid piracy.  If they can’t find a way for consumers to easily and quickly get the shows and films they want in a digital format, then consumers will continue to turn to piracy.  And flexibility of content will be key.  First, users will be able to watch their favorite video content on any device they wish, be it smart phone, iPad, or laptop… up to a point.  There will be a 12-device cap for content–meaning you can specify up to a dozen devices for use with your Ultraviolet account.  Additionally, content can be streamed to Internet-ready TV’s and set-top boxes like Roku or Revue as well.

From their website:

“You’ll be able to download and play UltraViolet media on UltraViolet computers, tablets, game consoles, set top boxes, Blu-ray players, Internet TVs, smartphones and other mobile devices.”

Ultraviolet will be free to use–aside from paying for the content you choose to buy–and you’ll be able to sign up in a variety of places, including the vendors like Best Buy that will participate in selling Ultraviolet content.

The idea is to give the consumer as much freedom as possible, both in choosing where and how to make digital content purchases as well as how and when to view it.  I’m actually having a tough time finding something to criticize about this service, because it sounds like a bit of a dream.  I can buy pretty much any movie or television show from a host of different outlets, control what device I view it on, and even choose between downloading or streaming it.  It’s a consumer’s paradise… which I think is the point.  In order to get the masses to abandon their movie-pirating ways, the entertainment industry is going to have to create an awful attractive alternative.

Of course, it’s possible that we’ll learn more about the service as it gears up for launch, and maybe we’ll find out something ugly about it–like that they’re going to jam advertisements in the middle of every film or something.  Despite my optimism for Ultraviolet, Hollywood has shown a propensity for selfishness in my view, and there’s still plenty of time to screw this up.  But for now… consider me cautiously optimistic. To learn more, check out Ultraviolet’s website.