21.28 Europe/London, September 18, 2011 By Robert Briel

Ultraviolet DRM technology offers the promise of enabling consumers to buy media in various digital and physical formats and consume it on a wide variety of devices. Despite the phenomenal long lists of backers, the absence of Apple might be fatal – at least according to a new report from Strategy Analytics.

The consortium backing the technology is formidable, spanning major global players from the content (such as Warner Bros, Fox), device manufacturing (including Samsung, Sony) and distribution (with the likes of BSkyB, Comcast) industries. However the absence of Apple and, to a lesser extent Disney, may lead to consumer adoption rates falling below expectations.

While seamless device portability for high quality content has become the hallmark of successful digital media strategies, Ultraviolet, a competing digital content and device ecosystem to iTunes, must address a range of challenges if it is to drive meaningful consumer adoption.

According to Ultraviolet’s DRM-Shaped Peg in the Apple-Shaped Hole, from the Strategy Analytics Digital Media service, the broadly-backed Ultraviolet initiative may struggle in the face of Apple dominance in the digital media content and device landscape.

“Given the scale of the challenges facing Ultraviolet it is just as well that the strengths and capabilities of its backers are the most impressive ever seen in a CE and media industry consortium. To drive consumer adoption, Ultraviolet will have to offer a frictionless experience across multiple content and device vendors. In the face of entrenched and fierce competition, Ultraviolet will have to offer a clear and convincing answer to the question many consumers will naturally pose: Why use it?” said Ed Barton, director of the Strategy Analytics Digital Media Service (DMS).

According to Barton, Ultraviolet faces a significant challenge to convince consumers to shift away from established services such as iTunes. The shadow of uncertainty arising from the absence of Apple from the DECE (Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem) consortium behind Ultraviolet means that the market cannot be certain about whether Ultraviolet-enabled content will work on Apple devices or whether iTunes will sell UV-enabled content.

Barton added, “The emergence of Ultraviolet will up the competitive stakes in the provision of digital media lockers and cloud-based content distribution. However a lack of compatibility with Apple devices or iTunes will discourage the highest spending digital media customer base from using Ultraviolet content which in turn impacts the value proposition. Consumers love content which offers seamless device portability and have already demonstrated this in their spending: in the absence of cooperation from Apple, Ultraviolet must surpass what is already available from competitors (and, of course, from pirated media) in order to deliver the results such a consortium deserves.”

The DECE consortium comprises UK players including BSkyB, BT, FilmFlex, Lovefilm, Red Bee Media and Tesco as members, in addition to Alcatel Lucent, Cisco, Comcast, Fox, Irdeto, Liberty Global, Nagravision NBC Universal, NDS, Paramount, Rovi, Techicolor and Toshiba, amongst others.