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CES: UltraViolet Set For Mid-Year Deployment In U.S.

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After 27 months of development, the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem is finally deploying UltraViolet, the digital-rights-management system for the electronic sell-through of TV and film content.

For the first time since the UltraViolet brand was unveiled last July, DECE is stepping out at CES to report on its progress. With the infrastructure buildout now complete, a phased deployment is expected to begin midyear in the U.S. that should see UltraViolet-branded content available in stores and digital storefronts. U.K. and Canada will follow later this year, and other regions will eventually be included.

“This announcement signals the product development phase is over,” said Mark Teitell, general manager of UltraViolet. “We’re starting the sounding gun on individual company deployment for consumer offers.”

DECE aims to facilitate the purchase of digital video content by giving each consumer a free, cloud-based “locker” in which he or she can store rights to their UltraViolet-branded TV and movies, which can be transferred between devices and bought from many different sources provided they are licensed by the DECE alliance.

Teitell outlined a four-stage deployment, the first of which is effective immediately: technical specifications are distributed to any company that wants to participate in DECE’s licensing program, which will likely be an even larger pool than the alliance’s 70-plus members. Control over how UltraViolet is implemented essentially shifts from DECE to these participating companies, whose implementation strategies could vary.

Asked whether those strategies could see fees imposed on consumers, Teitell didn’t rule out that prospect. “I expect that there will be and I say I expect because I don’t know,” he said. “Entities do have the right to essentially charge service fees for certain things. How they do that, if they do that, what level we do that, we don’t know. We’re not trying to know by design. we’re creatig a platform where competition and innovation can play out.”

The second stage, pegged for mid-2011, is when UltraViolet actually hits the marketplace. Participating studios will start releasing select titles in digital downloads or as digital discs bundled with physical with UltraViolet branding. A consumer’s first purchase will enable the opening of their own free Ultraviolet account into which other UltraViolet titles can be stored.

Third stage: By the end of the year, existing devices that are capable of receiving software updates will be activated with UltraViolet, which will enable consumers to transfer content between devices rather than having to download the same piece of content to each device.

Fourth stage: By 2012, hardware that can’t be updated will come to market with UltraViolet built in.

DECE also announced new members to its alliance: Akamai (NSDQ: AKAM) Technologies, ARRIS, Arxan Technologies, BSkyB (NYSE: BSY), Dell, Fanhattan, and QuickPlay Media. However, the growing ranks does not include some pretty significant holdouts including Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS), Walmart and Verizon.

Teitell explained that some of these companies could conceivably license UltraViolet and not be members.

Teitell confirmed that DECE is currently working on a marketing campaign that will help introduce UltraViolet to consumers who may have a lot to wrap their heads around. “We have a challenge and we’re working on that intensively in the first several months of this year,” he said. “It’s a relatively high degree of difficulty but a lot of our companies are confident we can tackle it.”