It’s DECE, the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem which is going to unveil some details at CES today, including a new name and a new logo, about DRM that will make digital media as easy to use and as consumer friendly as a physical medium like DVD. For the digitally challenged, DECE is that Hollywood effort to offer a new set of standards for the transfer and storage of copyrighted digital content. Specifically, it’s a multi-studio effort to standardize file format and distribution methods so that content can be played anywhere on any device. Should be interesting to see if Hollywood can make a “buy once, play anywhere” mantra a reality. But the real point of DECE is to stop the dominance of Apple and iTunes in this area. I’m told DECE was prompted because the major studios, networks and other entertainment providers are tired of Apple using its incredible iTunes market share to dictate how much content is worth. So this is a way for Big Media to take back their pricing power. (Remember how NBC yanked its content from iTunes upset with the deal it was getting from Apple, only to come crawling back with only a marginally better deal even after NBC launched Hulu?) Of course, the only major studio not on board DECE is Disney due to its strong ties to Apple. What will be interesting is to see the exact formats agreed to by the studios. (For instance, if they approved video equivalent(s) of audio’s MP3 standard?) It’s likely that the DECE deal will mean all providers make their content available on all platforms like PSP, Zune, PC, TV, etc. There’s also an idea for a “rights locker” whereby you don’t have to download a file at all — you just pay for access and it stays stored on the net available to you at any time. With members such as Alcatel-Lucent, Best Buy, Cisco, Comcast, Fox, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Lionsgate, Microsoft, NBC Universal, Paramount, Philips, Sony, Toshiba, VeriSign, and Warner Bros, DECE could represent a nightmare for Apple if they successfully build in ease of use. Insiders predict that Apple’s closed approach to iTunes will continue to make money. But, if the DECE user experience is as simple and portable as everyone says it will be, then iTunes market share will drop in the next few years as the power and portability of DECE content becomes a New Media monopoly worthy of the Big Media cartel.
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