Disney aims to be first to market with content in the cloud

Disney is expected to announce its new “content in the cloud” digital rights management (DRM) technology, according to SmartCards Trends. Codenamed “Keychest,” the system will give consumers “anywhere, any time, any device” access to content on PCs and handheld devices via personal online storage. This move pits Disney against the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) consortium, formed in 2008, with the same idea.

The rival DECE participants include hardware and content providers such as Alcatel Lucent, Warner Brothers, Intel, Philips, Samsung, Paramount, FOX, Pioneer, Sony, Toshiba, Lionsgate, Microsoft and NBC/Universal. As of yet, DECE is proceeding slowly. Its Web site promises “the future of entertainment” and asks for an e-mail address to send updates when services become available, which prompted In-Stat analyst Gerry Kaufhold to quip recently, “There isn’t much ‘there’ there.”

By storing the content online, both Disney and DECE aim to eliminate the difficulties consumers face with files isolated in different formats and on different devices. Both systems will allow users to have the same fair right of usage that older formats such as vinyl LPs and CDs offer. It’s legal to rip the music content on those formats for personal use, and now the same flexibility is recognized for other content as well. The purchaser gets ownership rights to the material and can access it on a PC or handheld device.

The content isn’t downloaded. It resides on the company’s servers and is accessible to the consumer in all formats. When users buy the rights to view movies and TV programs from the online “store,” their accounts are coded to allow access in all formats, at any time.

By allowing on-demand viewing, both Disney and the competing DECE hope to revolutionize entertainment. Physical media like CDs and DVDs would become obsolete as consumers store their content in a digital, Web-based format. This presents opportunities for savings from elimination of the need to package and ship costly, bulky items.

A risk lies in the possibility of a format war like those of Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD and Betamax vs. VHS. Consumers heavily invested in the “losing” technology may find their content unavailable.