You can take the Lord British out of Ultima, but you can't take the Ultima out of Lord British. Does that make sense? Probably not, but it sounded good, which is essentially the story of my career.
EA still jealously guards the Ultima license, despite not doing a whole lot with it outside of an only tangentially related free to play strategy game. However, it appears Ultima creator Richard Garriot has managed to personally retain the rights to sometime alter-ago and in-game ruler Lord British, which he now intends to use as the cornerstone of a new online game. "Lord British's New Britannia" awaits...
Britannia is, of course, the name of Ultima's main land, so presumably that's also wrapped up in whatever other rights he managed to sneak out through EA's coal cellar when he left.
There's a factoid that will make at least some of you go "ssssssssssssss" through your teeth. It's going to be a social network game, Garriot revealed at the SXSW conference this week (as attended by Gamasutra). However, unlike EA and their Lords of Ultima, Garriot seems a little more aware of the importance of heritage. "The virtual world game is not just an ultra-light MMO shopped on social media. I think that would be a failure."
And that's all we have, other than the news that he's shopping around for potential investors. I'm going to put on my Cautious Optimism cap. If anyone's likely to make an Ultima-esque title, it's the creator of Ultima. He sure is knee-deep in a lot of social gaming stuff though (as well as in making rockets) - hopefully he's aware that free to play/microtransactions can be difficult to reconcile with games of Ultima's depth and and challenge.