Based on my new Assange-like desire to set information free, today’s topic will consider some flaws with some leading industry consortia.
UltraViolet, whose unfortunate doppelganger to the skin-stinging UV, “is being designed to create a revolutionary new approach to digital entertainment,” and clearly, to create a viable alternative to Apple. UV’s goal of interoperability — of content and devices across retailers so that consumers don’t even need to think about what content works with which devices purchased from what retailers — is noble and exactly what consumers need to address our confusion that the industry itself has unfortunately created. Even my Mom would appreciate their efforts to make things simple.
Alignment where there is none
But achieving interoperability comes down to the huge task of aligning the often competing interests of all the players in the industry. From what I can tell from a scan of the site and some documents, it is no wonder that UV – which began more than 24 months ago – is still talking about the thousands of technical specifications, rules, requirements, obligations, licenses, and alphabet soup of newly created acronyms. However, while UV states it is making technical and legal progress toward creating a “revolutionary approach,” I just don’t know. It seems to me that UV is underestimating the importance of key players.
As we look at the 60+ members of the consortium, there are significant companies from all over the industry – but who’s missing from the roster of those companies that are actively involved? UV has been so focused on creating the “right” technology and standards that is has overlooked companies that have access and relationships to consumers that are most likely to adopt. Companies that have existing customer bases that can drive awareness, education and interaction with consumers are not actively engaged, nor do they seem motivated to contribute.
Netflix, while listed as a member, doesn’t really seem overly concerned with UV. Based on Netflix’s actions of continuing to march ahead in the marketplace with the AppleTV deal and the more than 200 devices they are on (not to mention the stink they are causing with the studios), it doesn’t seem they are playing along. Have any of you seen public announcements from Netflix that mention UV?
Players with lots of customers walking through their doors are choosing to wait and see how far the UV can get without them are the large retailers like Amazon and Wal-mart. Both of these retailers have chosen a different route. Amazon’s 99 cent TV episodes through Amazon On Demand indicate it is getting into the game – and is activating a price strategy to steal share. But how is Amazon engaging with UV?
Wal-mart’s acquisition of Vudu was interesting (and expensive), but we haven’t really heard that much about it. Another noticeable absent retailer is Target. We have to remember that these retailers are key to driving adoption of new products and services. And the only true retailer that is participating like Best Buy seem to be going down their own path with CinemaNow. So you have to ask, why aren’t there more retailers involved?
After thinking about this for the past few days, UV needs access to consumers to drive awareness and ultimately adoption. It must determine how to motivate companies that have real face to face relationships with customers like my Mom so that they can explain what undoubtedly will be, um, totally confusing.
Without the key players there, the danger is summed up in the classroom scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I unfortunately see Ben Stein as a metaphor for UV, and UV will be looking for Customers. Customer’s…Customer’s….Customer’s?