For almost 18 months, we have been working with the Movie studios on creating a blueprint architecture for rich digital media (a fancy name for digital movies). The concept falls in what I like to call the "big idea" category. The goal is to create an Internet eco-system that re-creates the user experience and commercial success of the DVD: an industry standard shared across all content providers, all retailers, and all device manufacturers.
Like the brick and mortar DVD, this new Internet DVD will share a common brand recognized by consumers worldwide; it will provide a common format with interoperable digital rights protection technology; The Internet DVD will be backed by a common usage policy that is consistent across movie studios and will provide a simple user experience for consumers. Believe it or not, we all believe that these lofty goals are achievable and we even have a proof of concept to support our irrational exuberance. You will just have to wait for this effort to become consumer facing to see it.
If successful, this "Internet DVD" standard, will allow any consumer to purchase and download movies from any online store (pick your favorite ecommerce store), and view it on any device (a PC, an IP TV, a mobile device). From the studios standpoint, the concept of the Internet DVD arises from witnessing the Internet speed transformation of the music industry: loss of sales driven by pirated content, emergence of music distribution silos where the lack of interoperability eventually leads to the elimination of rights protection altogether, a risk that the movie industry is not willing to accept without a good fight.
A key requirement of the "Internet DVD" is to enable DRM interoperability, which is timely considering the focus of regulatory instances, such as the European government. Of course, many will argue that the easiest way to achieve DRM interoperability is to get rid of DRM altogether. My theory (a lonely one in the blogosphere) is that a cloud-based approach is not only technically viable to create DRM interoperability. It is also the only possible approach to creating a user experience that resonates with consumers.
Indeed, the key to making the Internet DVD an insanely great consumer product is both open standards and a cloud approach. The cloud services (including OpenID-based identity services, of course,) are essential to mask the complexity of dealing with multiple DRM systems, multiple content formats and multiple retailers. The other trick is to leverage the cloud to provide additional functionality that the silos dismiss today: rights locker, perpetual ownership and the separation of the purchase from download experience. That last one is likely to resonate with marketers as the Internet DVD will encourage impulse by without forcing consumers to be tethered to a 10GB pipe.
Of course, the proof is in the pudding. We still have a few challenges ahead. We need to prove that the industry can come together and create a compelling joint offering for digital entertainment. We also need to prove that the hereditary vices of DRM can be hidden from consumers by using a cloud-based approach. The immensity of such challenge aside, the immediate lesson to me is that the cloud can be a disruptive force when it comes to new product design. The cloud creates new dimension that can challenge common thinking and alter the status quo, like the well-established thinking that DRM is a dead end. One thing is sure. The movie industry is a fascinating world and it will be fun to see how the cloud allows it to reinvent its biggest commercial success. So, say hi to the Internet DVD, it may be coming to a computer near you very soon now.