Flexplay - what's that?
A Flexplay DVD disc is identical to a regular DVD disc in all ways except one: The contents of a Flexplay disc can only be viewed for a fixed duration once the disc is taken out of its package. After this period of time has expired, the read surface of the DVD turns an opaque, purple colour and the disc is rendered illegible.
How does it work?
Obviously, Flexplay are keeping the precise details to themselves but the consensus seems to be that a layer of air-sensitive material is applied during the DVD manufacturing process. Depending on the exact composition, this layer will turn opaque anywhere between 8 and 60 hours after its first exposure to the air.
Possible uses for a Flexplay DVD
Flexplay DVD's can be used for promotional purposes: 5,000 Flexplay DVD's were distributed to promote the latest James Bond film - 'Die Another Day', complete with a tongue in cheek warning that the disc's contents would "self destruct in 36 hours". How very "Q"! It's also been used for promoting music videos - after all, who wants to watch those more than a couple of times?
Another potential application is movie rental . We already have DVD-by-mail movie rental - in the future, it may be more cost-effective for a rental company to send Flexplay discs 'one-way', i.e. with no return postage to pay. The renter simply discards or recycles the disc after the viewing period ends. Also, there's no late fees!
Flexplay's strongest selling point: it's cheap and it's not DIVX!
Let's not forget the drawbacks to such a 'disposable technology': What happens to a Flexplay disc once it's illegible? A 'recycling rebate' would have to be relatively large to entice people to return their spent disks and there's a limit to how many CD-shaped coasters a person needs. While the volume of used discs finding their final resting place in a landfill won't be as large as that of, say, supermarket polythene bags, it's a shame that a newly-introduced, disposable product isn't biodegradable, isn't it?