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Looking at a ‘Cloud’-y Future

24 Oct, 2011 By: Stephanie Prange

UltraViolet, All Access, iCloud — the cloud storage future is finally beginning to take shape for movie and TV content, but that future is still, pardon the term, cloudy.

I still haven’t seen the kind of plans envisioned when the industry was first discussing Blu-ray Disc. Even in the early days of the high-definition format, there was talk of offering a digital copy that consumers could unlock after they purchased a disc — that they could easily access and use at their leisure on many different devices. We got something like that in the digital copy discs included with most releases, but it seemed a stop-gap, clunky measure until the industry could somehow store consumers’ electronic copies in the cloud. Many digital copies weren’t compatible with Apple devices or were only compatible with Apple devices. How copies were downloaded, how many devices they worked on — all of that changed from disc to disc.

Unfortunately, the movement into the cloud doesn’t seem like it is going to be any simpler. Warner has employed Flixster to launch its first UltraViolet titles for better “everywhere” access. Apps and hardware to more seamlessly launch the service are a work in progress. One plus is UltraViolet’s broad studio support, save Disney.

The Disney Studio All Access concept is still just that — a concept. Details on the service are slim and the launch date is murky (if it ever launches). With Apple’s connection to Disney, I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney goes with iCloud in the end. But where will that leave viewers who want the superior quality of disc as well as digital copies for portability?

Apple’s rumored iCloud service looks like it will chuck discs altogether, offering only a digital copy in the cloud unconnected to a disc purchase. Digital copies are nice for mobile phones and laptops, but nothing surpasses the kind of in-home experience that Blu-ray Disc can offer.  I’m not sure iCloud will fully satisfy consumers’ desire for home theater-quality viewing, or the 3D experience that Blu-ray can offer.

If UltraViolet can shine in the cloud, it just might be the answer the industry is looking for, but seeing through the cloud is still murky.

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