The UltraViolet digital download mess that no one wants

GigaOm says that users are already frustrated by Hollywood’s new attempt to give people digital downloads to own but on Hollywood’s non-user centric terms:

Talk about a bad first impression: The first two Blu-ray discs featuring Hollywood’s new UltraViolet cloud locker have been met with a lot of criticism from consumers, who have been calling the technology an “awful move,” “bogus,” a “joke” and a bunch of other things we can’t reprint here in numerous reviews on Many consumers took issue with the fact that they couldn’t download the digital version onto their iPad, and one wrote: “All I can say is that their digital cloud is a bunch of hot air that smells REALLY bad.”

I’ve already laid out how I think digital movie ownership should work. My plan is orders of magnitude better because its centered on giving users a great experience. If you give users a great experience, they will buy more. Fact.

UltraViolet is a shallow attempt to get users to buy more physical discs by claiming that, “if you buy the physical disc you also get a great digital copy!” The problem is that you need codes to unlock the movies and you need to sign up for another website and these movies don’t work on many of the devices that you want them too. It’s what we like to call a bad user experience.

The problem facing digital movie downloads is not technological, as the UltraViolet consortium claims. It’s all about usability.

Owning and watching digital movies should be far easier than owning and storing physical copies. Right now the opposite is true.

GigaOm’s other recent piece about UltraViolet caused me to leave a fired-up comment. Here it is:

I disagree. The issue is that Hollywood studios have not allowed for there to be great ways to own digital movies. Downloading a movie to my computer’s hard drive is not ideal. Downloading it to a set top box isn’t ideal either.

What is ideal is the ability to purchase a movie and have it stored in the cloud. Then users would be able to stream it to any device they would like. I would purchase a lot more movies on iTunes if I could store them on Apple’s servers and stream whenever I like. The movie studios haven’t agreed to this idea yet, but it works well for songs and TV shows.

The problem with digital downloads added onto physical discs is that the digital is always an afterthought. These downloads are SD. They require codes to activate. They expire. It’s really a terrible experience that only an old, out-of-touch executive could possibly think is a good idea (I no longer download digital versions of movies that come with Blu-rays).

Instead, imagine you could purchase and store movies in the cloud. You would have a great UI for managing and finding movies in your collection and you could share and watch movies with friends. The movies would work on your TV, computers, tablets and phones. And it would just work. No need to manage codes or anything like that.

It should be much, much easier to buy and store digital movies than it is with physical discs. Right now, it’s the opposite. Storing digital movies is a huge pain. The buying process isn’t that good either, especially with all the restrictions on the movies and how movies come and go in online store do to various licensing deals.

Studios should be selling more movies than ever. I would buy a lot more movies if buying digital movies were easy. Instead, I have to store the movies on my hard drive and then I have to stream that to my TV. I also have to worry about backups.

And how honestly wants to watch movies through UltraViolet? Codes? Streaming on only certain devices? Using a terrible UI made by a non-technology company? This is embarrassing.

Streaming and movie rentals are catching on because they are so easy. The studios have made it harder to buy their content than they have to rent it. How stupid is that?