Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Movies to ship on USB Sticks.

Movies to ship on USB Sticks.
By John L. Sokol

I just ran a across and add for movies included on USB sticks from Fry's electronics. Actually a friend Will who I was having coffee with that morning pointed it out, "Hey John, check this out! 4 Gig for $9.99, not a bad deal, but Sony is including movies with that!" The grainy new paper photo of the packaging really didn't do it justice.

(sorry for the poor image quality, all I had was my cell phone to capture the image with)

The Sony memory stick I have here with me now has The Da Vinci Code on it.

The real irony is later that day I ended up spending 5 hours at that company that developed that technology behind those Sony sticks.

Mo-DV located in Cupertino, CA. was first pointed out at great insistence to me by my friend and trusted music industry expert Leveious Rolando. For years I have kept asking myself why isn't the music and film industry putting their content on silicon. I started thinking about this back in 99 and later I even wrote a paper on and gave talks at number of big companies about the subject.

I think flash is really the only sensible way to go in the long run.  In the end no matter how much resistance the industry gives it will almost surely have to end up doing it this way. Flash is more robust, and more reliable then CD's and the companys like SanDisk and Kingson are already leading the charge. Flash is reusable, it's Green, it's smaller and more convenient and best of all it has all the flexibility of a proper electronic medium. Imagine netflix shipping flash memory rather then CD's, how much easier and simpler. How much less physical inventory they would have to manage, and the reduced logistics alone! Picture kiosks at the supermarket where you could copy a movie over the your USB stick to play when you get home. It's almost like those reusable cloth shopping bags. Blockbuster would vanish overnight! It's somewhere between bit and atoms. It provides the hybridized best of both media something you can hold in your hand, something tangible and yet just as flexible as an Internet media technologies.
I know many DRM schemes have been proposed for Flash memory, but until this product came along, the industry just would never allow it to happen, at least legally *Cough*

Well Mo-DV is responsible for the DRM, encryption and copyright protection that finally got a major Hollywood studios to wake up and finally do something.

The first customer is always the hardest and to land such a large customer such a Sony is a real surprise, and this time it looks like things are finally going to happen. Seems Paramount also just came online too.
I am also told there is already several other big studios doing deals to release movies in this format also. Fortunately there hasn't started a Flash Memory Stick Format war yet. It always seems there is, between records and 8-tracks, cassettes, and finally CD. With video between Beta and VHS finally ending in a smooth transition to DVD.
With Moores Law, Blue Ray or any atoms (physical) based medium just doesn't stand a chance against flash memory. Flash chips communicate purely electronically allowing a near infinite advancement and changes to the storage medium without requiring changes to the player hardware. With time, because of Moore's Law, the flash costs will drop so much lower then DVD's for both the media and players, that nothing else could possibly complete. Even if they tried, it would most likely end up as a USB attached storage device.

Also with the SSD (solid state disk) technology taking off, this will really push the price of flash down as it seems rotating disks will soon be as obsolete as paper tape or floppy disks. 

Mo-DV, short for Mobile Digital Video, has a patented technology that offered enough DRM protection to change things. Now that several Hollywood studios are finally conformable with releasing movies in an all digital silicon format everything changes.

First there is the huge mobile phone market with already 3 billion phones having flash memory card slots  The spectrum shortage and expense of cell phone wireless bandwidth for streaming and downloading make flash memory an economical and viable alternative delivery mechanism for video.

In the home consumer electronics market equipment manufactures can include at a much lower cost then a DVD or BlueRay player an integrated USB movie player. The total additional cost for the manufacturer is $0 to $15 depending on if they already have an on board DSP and USB connector. A number of manufactures already have USB supported on there equipment in anticipation of such formats arriving.

A number of Flat Screen TV's already support playing movies from USB, but it seems to be intended for home movies. Today anyone using it to watch a Hollywood movie is technically doing so illegally and would be considered a pirate. Well now with the Mo-DV technology and a software update, they will be able to legally play early run movie shipped over the Internet or sold on store shelves in USB and SD card formats. Most Digital Cable boxes already include an a USB port also, they just don't appear to be enabled, but it's clear they should be able to play the new USB stick format with little more then a software update.

Even some car stereos now have USB and the ability to play MP3 off a Memory stick. Well studios should be able to sell DRM protected music on USB thumb drives rather then being tied to a specific player like your IPod or Zune. Mo-DV's technology could work across anything using flash memory. Currently they are targeting the mobile phone industry, but personally I think it's really the flexibility to play across all devices with USB or SD, from cell phones, PDA, netbooks, laptops and desktop machines that really changes the game.


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