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Disney Demos DECE Competitor ‘KeyChest’

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The race to create technology that would allow users to purchase a piece of content once and watch it on nearly any device is heating up, with Disney (s DIS) showing off its “KeyChest” technology yesterday. Like the DECE, which made its own announcements earlier this week, Disney is trying to create a central repository that stores user purchase information where digital storefronts and devices could connect to enable access to content wherever and whenever.

Disney demoed KeyChest to reporters in Burbank, Calif., showing them possible cases where the rights repository might come in handy. Arnaud Robert, Disney senior vice president of distribution technology, demonstrated how retailers could use KeyChest to share information about a customer’s purchases, so that a piece of content bought at one store would become available through another company’s web site, according to the LA Times. He also showed how KeyChest would allow mobile phones and set-top boxes to access movie files copied from a new DVD onto a PC, without transferring them over a home network.

So if Disney gets its wish, you might soon be able to purchase a DVD of The Lion King and stream it almost immediately on your computer or mobile phone. And, based on press reports from the demo, the technology appears to be fully baked, with a KeyChest rollout planned for later this year.

But there are still challenges ahead. For one thing, Disney has to convince other content providers and consumer electronics device manufacturers to use KeyChest. While the DECE organized a group of partners to create a standard they could all agree on, Disney decided to build the technology first and sort out partners later. But given the large number of companies that have already thrown their weight behind the DECE — including content providers like Fox Entertainment Group (s NWS), Lionsgate, NBC Universal (s TWX), Paramount Pictures (s VIA) and Warner Bros. Entertainment as well as CE manufacturers like Motorola (s MOT), Panasonic (s PC), Samsung Electronics, Sony (s SNE) and Toshiba — getting new entrants onboard might be a tough sell.

But Disney said it will work with other groups to enable this functionality. KeyChest, while offering similar capabilities as the DECE’s digital rights locker, is not competitive to the other project, Disney stressed, but will work with multiple file and DRM formats — including those being put forward by the DECE.

In addition, some major companies aren’t participating in the DECE that could sign up for KeyChest. Apple (s AAPL) has been linked to the technology as a likely partner, given the companies’ ongoing collaborative relationship and the fact that CEO Steve Jobs is the largest individual shareholder in Disney. Amazon (s AMZN) could join, as a way to bolster its physical DVD and electronic sell-through business, and Google (s GOOG) could be an interesting partner as well, as a way to make more video content available on Android mobile devices (and eventually) set-top boxes.

The question is how quickly KeyChest will be adopted by device manufacturers and enabled on different devices, and how widespread the technology will be. As we wrote earlier in the week about the DECE’s efforts to create a similar experience, “If a user finds that he can’t get the content he wants on the device he wants — for instance, getting a movie purchased from CinemaNow to play on an iPhone — it will be difficult to get him to use a supported service to buy content more than once.”