New Intel-backed company eyes Web movie downloads

Clickstar, a new company backed by Intel, wants to offer first-run movies over the Internet.

Intel and movie studio Revelations Entertainment have formed a company that hopes to offer new feature films over the Internet.

ClickStar was announced Wednesday by Intel Chief Executive Officer Paul Otellini and Morgan Freeman, the Oscar-winning actor who founded Revelations Entertainment along with producer Lori McCreary. The new company wants to create a market for the online distribution of newly released movies, said Nizar Allibhoy, chief executive officer of the new company and a former executive with Sony Pictures Digital.

Companies such as Movielink and CinemaNow allow movie fans to download digital copies of films that have been released on DVD and watch them at home on a pay-per-view basis. ClickStar wants to provide movies for download before they are released on DVD, and to also permit consumers to buy those movies, rent them, or subscribe to a frequent-user service, Allibhoy said.

"As long as it's secure and able to be offered to consumers, let's make it so," Allibhoy said.

Intel's goal in backing the company is to provide another incentive for PC users to upgrade their systems to handle new technologies and services. In doing so, the company also takes on the responsibility of creating user demand while satisfying the needs of the entertainment industry for content protection technologies.

In order for large movie studios such as Sony Pictures Entertainment and Time Warner to work with a company such as ClickStar, they will need assurances that users can't turn around and share those movies over the Internet. However, Intel and ClickStar also want to allow consumers to use their digital content in ways they are already accustomed to with analog content, such as streaming the content around their house, moving it to portable viewers and burning a backup copy of it, said Kevin Corbett, a vice president in Intel's Digital Home Group. That last part -- burning a copy of the content -- is an area that currently lacks a DRM technology that satisfies the needs of both consumers and the content industry and is something that will have to be addressed before next year, he said.

Some users might be able to download and play ClickStar movies using today's Intel-based PCs, but the experience will be improved with technology available next year from Intel, Corbett said. Corbett declined to elaborate on the specific technology that Intel will use in its products for the digital home next year. Earlier this year Otellini reorganized Intel around building what it calls platforms -- a collection of various chips designed to work together -- for specific markets such as home users or office workers.

He denied that Intel's forthcoming LaGrande technology would be required for the ClickStar service. LaGrande is embedded security technology built right into PC hardware that Intel says will help consumers and business users secure their PCs, but some consumer advocates also believe the technology might be used to implement restrictive DRM policies. Intel has not released many details about LaGrande, which is expected to appear in Intel products next year.

ClickStar hopes to offer movies for download in the early part of 2006, Allibhoy said. The company naturally is working with Revelations Entertainment, but Allibhoy declined to comment on the nature of any agreements with larger movie studios. Pricing for the service has not been finalized, he said.

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Tom Krazit

IDG News Service
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