UltraViolet: The movie-watching wave of the future or a pointless hassle?

Kevin Spacey plays Jason Bateman's boss in Horrible Bosses.

It's a DVD! It's a web streaming option! It's a dessert topping! It's a floor wax! It's all those things. Well, except the dessert topping and floor wax.

UltraViolet DVDs work like regular DVDs. No ultra-violet rays are actually involved, but they are packaged with a code and some instructions on how to also stream the movie from a remote server on to your phone, computer or tablet. The first movie to be released in this package is "Horrible Bosses," which came out Tuesday. "The Green Lantern" is available tomorrow. Many more films are still to come, including the final chapter in the Harry Potter series. UltraViolet has the backing and involvement of all the major studios with the exception of Disney.

In theory, it sounds great. Own a movie and be able to watch it in a bunch of different ways. In practice, it might be a little different. You'll need to hold on to the little slip that gives you the digital rights to the movie, you'll need to set up an UltraViolet account and you'll need to set up another account on some software system that will actually play the movie for you.

So are you ready for this new big thing? Max Dawson, professor of radio, TV and film at Northwestern University says it's going to be tough for some people. "It is very confusing considering the fact that we all just upgraded to Blu-Ray. What UltraViolet really is is not specifically one technology, but rather a new relationship between the consumer and the content owner. In the long-term, the aspiration is to be supported by all digital devices ranging from smartphones to set top boxes, but in the short-term, it's going to be more piecemeal. And it's going to be frustrating for consumers, that they're going to be required to download new software, get used to new file formats when many of us have just gotten used to iTunes."

Jennifer Holt, who teaches film and media studies at U.C. Santa Barbara, says the studios are betting big that people want to still hold a movie in their hands: "(The studios) still believe the physical copy isn't going anywhere soon. To me, it looks like a service trying to get in front of the movement of content to the cloud, and be the one place that is the standard. You know everyone is at this UltraViolet party -- every studio, Microsoft, Panasonic, IBM and HP, but there are two noticeable people that are not there, and that is Disney and Apple."

Discs vs. Bits. Disney and Apple vs. Hollywood and Microsoft. We got characters and conflicts, bring on the popcorn. But will UltraViolet pack the theaters? Dawson says, "Its success will largely depend on two factors. If this requires you to ditch your entire media collection you got through iTunes, the consumer will reject it. The other thing is compelling content; neither "Green Lantern" or "Horrible Bosses" falls into that category. As much as I'd like to see studios be able to achieve success, I'm not too sure this is the right solution."

Also in this program, a new mouthguard is being used by Stanford University football players to gather data about what kind of punishment the head takes during a game.

About the author

John Moe is the host of Marketplace Tech Report, where he provides an insightful overview of the latest tech news.

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