Eight of the US' largest high-technology companies, consumer electronics makers and movie studios were yesterday to announce a system for licensing and distributing movies and other content produced with the latest digital media technology.
The collaboration among Intel, IBM, Microsoft, Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic, Walt Disney and Time Warner is intended to help prevent the delays and problems that have plagued the rollout of new digital formats in the past.
"This will settle a lot of problems," said Richard Doherty, president of Envisioneering, a technology research and consulting company based in Seaford, New York.
"A lot of content isn't going to get to consumers without something like this," he said.
The specification, called the Advanced Access Content System, will be available by the end of the year to movie studios, producers, consumer electronic manufacturers and other companies involved in the distribution of the next generation of digital media content.
By adhering to a single specification, content owners and makers of devices such as portable media players and home media networks can better ensure that their products work together and that their copyrights are protected.
For example, consumers would be able to buy one copy of a movie and view it on multiple devices, such as TVs and desktop computers.
The project is a departure for the movie studios, which have typically been on the receiving end of new licensing schemes and technical standards rather than being involved from the start.
"Helping to develop the technology rather than just licensing it allows us to be proactive in addressing issues," said Sandra Aistars, senior counsel for intellectual property at Time Warner and chairman of the group.
With the involvement of Walt Disney and Warner Brothers, the effort represents 40 percent of the market for home videos today, making it more likely the new format will be successful.
Doherty said the new specification and licensing model will make it easier for movie studios to distribute their latest films on the most advanced formats, like those for the next-generation portable media players recently announced by Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard.
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