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Apple preparing cloud movie service, would compete with UltraViolet?

iTunes and iCloud logos
iTunes and iCloud logos

Apple is constructing a cloud movie service which might launch in late 2011 or early 2012 — according to the LA Times — and it might compete with the recently launched UltraViolet 'digital locker' service, which is a form of DRM that allows users to grab movie or TV content and view it on a number of different devices. The LA Times says that Apple has been meeting with studios to finalize deals which would allow users to buy movies through iTunes and watch them on any Apple device as well as PCs. The recent news of Apple's plans comes on the heels of UltraViolet's launch this week.

UltraViolet is a one-size-fits-all approach to DRM and not a true cloud movie service — it allows users to add a digital "proof of purchase" to their UV account whenever they buy a UV-enabled movie or TV show. The user can then download copies of registered movies, stream them over the internet, watch them on a wide variety of screens, and share the service with up to six people (there are some caveats, which you can read up on here). You can already sign up for UV, but there are only two movie titles available as of yet — Horrible Bosses and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2. However, the skimpy initial catalog doesn't speak to a lack of studio support — UltraViolet was developed by the members of the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem consortium, which includes the "Big Six" major film studios, retailers, cable companies, ISPs, and other businesses.

Although Apple is not part of UltraViolet, its devices could reportedly be compatible — the Times claims that Apple is considering allowing UV purchases to play on Apple devices via apps, but it won't let purchases from iTunes extend to UltraViolet (with a reported 65.8 percent market share, why would it?). Regardless of how Apple and UltraViolet play together, consumers are facing the exciting prospect of a lot more online movie content in the next year.