Technologizer posts about Wal-Mart

The Lumia 710 is Free, But Don’t Panic

By  |  Posted at 1:24 am on Thursday, January 19, 2012

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The tech blogosphere’ collective head is spinning as Wal-Mart has dropped the price of Nokia’s first commercially available Windows Phone device in the US — the Lumia 710 — to free. Immediately, people began swing that this was a sure sign that the release is a bust: surely a device selling well wouldn’t be available for nothing so quickly? Or would it?

Look, it’s Wal-Mart were talking about here. Land of “Always Low Prices, Always.. Something tells me that we shouldn’t make judgements on the success of a device merely on this retailer’s pricing strategy. It could simply be that Wal-Mart wants to sell more phone. Let’s also consider the competitive landscape.

With the absolute glut of Android phones out there, there are quite a few devices on the market at that “free” price point. Wal-Mart has many of these devices because they fit into the demographic of their consumers: budget-conscious. The Lumia 710 is a great midrange phone, and is similar in functionality to those free devices.

Also look at Best Buy and T-Mobile: both still sell the device for $49.99 with a two-year contract. While Wal-Mart’s decision may accelerate their plans to discount the phone, they certainly are in no rush to join Wal-Mart in the race to the bottom. Nokia has only offered that these phones are selling “well”, so we really have no clue how things are going.

So take a breath, and let the market judge whether Nokia’s gamble was a smart one.



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Wal-Mart has the 16GB iPhone 3GS for $97–the best deal on an iPhone to date, and a major technology bargain, period. But don’t buy one. At least not quite yet. Wait a couple of weeks for Steve Jobs’ WWDC keynote–he’s probably going to have something to say about $100 iPhones, and it’s possible it’ll involve an even more attractive offer than this one.

Posted by Harry at 9:42 am

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Wal-Mart Gets Themselves Some Vudu

By  |  Posted at 7:55 am on Tuesday, February 23, 2010

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Wow. The rumor was true. Wal-mart is indeed acquiring Vudu. Given the retailer’s prior failed attempt at digital media distribution and MediaMemo’s way-off financing stat, I had a difficult time buying it. But the deal is done – so congrats to the Vudu team.

Vudu’s story arc is interesting. From the beginning, and like many, I found the idea of a premium priced, dedicated movie box problematic. And suspected we had another Moviebeam on our hands as Vudu nearly folded late in 2008 when they discovered what most of us already knew. But after a few rounds of layoffs, a new strategy to port the Vudu experience to 3rd party hardware, a press relations agency upgrade, and additional financing, they quite successfully weathered the storm.

With Best Buy embracing TiVo and Napster it sort of makes sense Wal-mart would want a digital distribution partner of their own. Although the investors recouped their cash, consumers probably aren’t the big winner here. I fully expect Vudu’s AVN channel will be the first thing axed. And Dan Rayburn anticipates the whole enterprise, under Walmart’s stewardship, will fail.

I do hope the original stand-alone boxes see one more software upgrade to move them off P2P distribution and onto the CDN in use by all other Vudu devices. Rather than a complete shuttering. Also, in light of the acquisition, my plan to find a deal on a LG BD390 is on hold.

(This post republished from Zatz Not Funny.)



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The New York Times’ Brad Stone is reporting that a source says that Wal-Mart is buying Vudu, the excellent Internet movie service that started out as a box but which has morphed into a feature built into HDTVs and Blu-Ray players. If so, it’s a smart move on Wal-Mart’s part. But also a potentially worrisome one: As Stone says, the Behemoth of Bentonville has a spotty record when it comes to selling digital content. Here’s hoping that it leaves Vudu pretty much as it is rather than messing with a good thing…

Posted by Harry at 11:11 am

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Best Buy, Wal-Mart End Used Game Kiosk Flirtation

By  |  Posted at 5:33 pm on Thursday, February 4, 2010

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When it comes to trading in used games, there really is no stopping Gamestop.

Best Buy and Wal-Mart, who both experimented with used game kiosks last year, are pulling out, according to IndustryGamers. Both companies relied on a third-party, E-Play, to run the kiosks, and will remove the machines over the next few weeks. E-Play’s Web site has a sombre little message saying they’ve suspended operations, and thanking customers.

In addition to offering credit or debit card credit in exchange for used games, the kiosks rented DVDs (as long as there wasn’t a Redbox machine in the store as well), Blu-ray discs and video games.

A couple guesses why the pilot programs failed: Unlike Gamestop, where you can call to find out a game’s trade-in value, a kiosk is unpredictable, and the prices E-Play offered — $25 for new titles down to 50 cents for throwaways — isn’t better than anywhere else.  Marketing and awareness could’ve come into play as well. If you call Gamestop, you’ll likely hear, “Thank you for calling Gamestop, where we buy and sell used games” on the other end. Somehow, “Welcome to Wal-Mart, check out that kiosk over there” doesn’t have the same ring.

All’s not lost for trading games outside of GameStop. Toys R’ Us, which began buying used games in select markets last year, expanded the program nationwide in September. Amazon will buy your old games in exchange for online store credit, and Wal-Mart still sells used games online, but does not buy them. Still, none of these competitors offer the whole package of buying and selling used games. Local stores and smaller chains, such as Game Crazy, are still around (barely), and thrifty gamers will still rely on Craigslist, eBay and Goozex.

But for most of the United States, for quickly unloading a used game and getting another one in its place, GameStop’s got it locked down.



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Look Out Ma Bell Here’s…Wal-Mart

By  |  Posted at 3:09 pm on Wednesday, October 14, 2009

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Today, Wal-Mart announced that it is becoming a wireless provider. The retail giant is offering an “unlimited” no-contact cell phone service for $45, and a metered plan for $30.

While there is no contract, customers must purchase an eligible phone. Wal-Mart is offering an entry-level LG 220 flip phone at $39.98, an LG Slider 290 at $79.98, and the Samsung 451 QWERTY keyboard phone at $99.88. Minutes may be added to phones at its stores or via the Web.

As a technophile, it’s tempting for me to point out the short comings of those devices. There are only a few stock applications available, and unlimited data on a flip phone does not translate to the same experience that I have surfing the Web on my iPhone. But that does not matter, because the people who would buy these phones wouldn’t care.

Last year, my family bought my 90-year-old grandfather a pre-paid cell phone from Best Buy. I’m not sure what brand it is, but it was one of a few options that I usually see at mall kiosks. The Wal-Mart brand is much stronger than any of those, and we probably would have bought a phone from it if we had the option.

It’s also an economical choice for families with shoestring budgets. Leading wireless companies provide family plans, but they aren’t cheap, and usually require a commitment. AT&T even charges parents that want to place restrictions on their kids’ usage. A pre-paid plan doesn’t require families to purchase much more than what they want to pay for.

Whether Wal-Mart becomes a viable wireless company or not is up to the market, but its track record is pretty solid. Wal-Mart rapidly became the largest grocery store in the United States after all, and it has more locations than other pre-paid wireless companies. Im guessing it’ll do well.



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Wal-Mart Wants Your Used Games

By  |  Posted at 2:06 pm on Monday, May 18, 2009

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eplaykioskIf you need to unload some old video games and don’t care to interact with GameStop employees, consider machines as an alternative.

Wal-Mart is testing standalone buy back kiosks at 77 stores in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, Video Business reports. The kiosks will scan the bar codes of used games and separately swallow the disc and casing in exchange for money transferred to a credit card.

The kiosks will also rent video games and DVDs, but the DVD rental function will be switched off in stores that already have a Redbox kiosk. Games and DVDs will cost $1 per night, and Blu-ray rentals will costs $2 for the first night and $1 per night after that.

As with GameStop and, more recently Amazon, the buy back price is a point of discontent. Wal-Mart’s kiosks will spit out the usual range of offers, from $25 for high-demand games to 50 cents for undesirables. Generally, you can expect used games at those trade-in prices to sell back for double. I’m surprised none of the competition wants to tinker with that formula and see how it affects market share.

It’s not clear what will happen to the used games. Instead of operating the kiosks directly, Wal-Mart is leasing space in the vestibule area, just outside the stores themselves, to a company called E-Play. That company has a “couple different methods” for resale, marketing VP and business development executive Kristen Fox told Gamasutra, but declined to be more specific.

Meanwhile, a writer for Neocrisis has already spotted one of the kiosks (seen above). It lacks Wal-Mart branding, except for the slogan “Save Money. Live Better.” Notably, Neocrisis reported some serious bugs in these early boxes. Most of the games offered didn’t scan, and the only one that did — the fairly high profile Mirror’s Edge — wasn’t in the kiosk’s database. The writer walked away without trading anything.

Maybe humans have some merit after all.



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Wal-Mart Beefing Up Electronics Departments

By  |  Posted at 10:15 am on Monday, May 18, 2009

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wmlogoWal-Mart is making a move to become a premier electronics destination and gain share in the wake of Circuit City’s demise. Beginning this week, the electronics departments in all 3,500+ stores will get a facelift.

Wal-Mart and Amazon seem to have been the biggest beneficiaries of Circuit City’s fall, splitting the company’s business rather evenly. Best Buy has not seemed to gain much at all, even though it was expected to by analysts.

Displays will be roomier, and top brands will get their own distinct sections. The moves are a continuation of Wal-Mart electronics expansion, this time apparently aimed at making the department more sophisticated.

One thing that will make computer manufacturers happy is a new laptop section where consumers will be able to try out the products. Many were not happy with Wal-Mart’s strategy of keeping them locked away to prevent shoplifting: this would bring them more in line with what other electronics retailers do.

The recession has definitely helped out the retailer: consumers that normally would not shop there have turned to Wal-Mart in search of better deals. Company executives see this, and are making an honest effort to step up their game to keep these new shoppers when the economy improves.

Changes in consumer behavior is also being noticed by the manufacturers themselves: Wal-Mart is now able to compete for first runs of new products, whereas before they weren’t even considered.

(Hat tip: Wall Street Journal)



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So Much for Cheaper Music on Amazon


Well, it didn’t take very long for the other music stores to follow suit after iTunes’ price hike Tuesday. By late evening, both Amazon and Wal-Mart had simarily raised prices on some of their top tracks by 30 cents. Both had priced their tracks at 99 and 94 cents respectively.

Like iTunes, both stores have cheaper tracks too: Amazon will have tracks for 79 and 89 cents, and Wal-Mart will have selected tracks at a price of 64 cents. In either case, though, the number of more expensive tracks in the top 100 are much less than iTunes.

For Amazon, that number is only eight, and Wal-Mart has 17.

Posted by Ed Oswald at 9:19 am

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Wal-Mart to Sell the iPhone: Nothing to See Here

By  |  Posted at 10:32 am on Friday, December 26, 2008

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walmartiphoneIt’s felt all but official for weeks, but now it’s officially official: Wal-Mart will begin selling iPhones on Sunday. The one thing that was intriguing about the rumor version of this news was the theory that it would offer a 4GB version for $99. But as I suspected, the retailing behemoth will sell the same 8GB and 16GB models as everyone else. (At a tiny discount–the 8GB will be $197 and the $16GB will be $297.)

As of Sunday, iPhones will now available at Apple Stores, AT&T stores, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart. And I hope that this marks the end of it being worth of note when Apple lines up additional retailers. (It does feel inevitable that RadioShack will join the lineup eventually, given that it currently sells both iPods and phones.)



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Wal-Mart iPhones Apparently On Their Way. Either For $99, or Not For $99.

By  |  Posted at 7:45 am on Monday, December 8, 2008

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walmartiphoneBloomberg and the San Jose Mercury News seem to have confirmed a rumor that’s been around for a long while now: Wal-Mart is about to start selling the iPhone, joining the Apple Store, AT&T retail locations, and Best Buy. And the Mercury-News found a source willing to say on the record that there were plans for a $99 model. But having read both stories, and I’m still confused:

* The first sentence of Bloomberg’ story, by Connie Guglielmo, says that “two store representatives [say] the world’s largest retailer will carry two models of the Web-surfing handset this month.” The second sentence says “Employees in the cell-phone departments at five California stores, contacted by phone today, said Wal-Mart will offer iPhones by the end of December.” I don’t understand the distinction between the two Wal-Marters mentioned in sentence #1 and the five mentioned in sentence #2. (Not surprisingly, Wal-Mart declined official comment.)

* Guglielmo’s Wal-Mart sources provided at least three different statements about when it would launch in their stores: “around Dec. 15,” “between Christmas and the New Year,” and “Dec. 28.” Presumably it’ll launch everywhere at the same time. And launching the hottest cell phone on the planet shortly after Christmas would be peculiar timing.

* The Mercury-News story, by Troy Wolverton, quotes another Wal-Mart staffer as saying “Originally they were going to release it before Christmas, but they can’t get them that fast to us,” which might explain the timing decision. Except that Wolverton found another store employee who said that her location was supposed to be getting phones two days before Christmas: “They’re trying to push it before Christmas because they know how people will want it for Christmas.”

* The Wal-Mart staffer who told Wolverton that her location would be getting phones two days before Christmas also told him that she’d been told it would be getting a 4GB model–presumably the fabled $99 iPhone. But other Wal-Marters told Wolverton there’d be no $99 model, and a leaked image of a Wal-Mart ad mentions no sub-$100 phone. (It does mention a low everyday price of $197. Two bucks less than Apple and AT&T’s price.)

Ultimately, I’d say that:

* iPhones at Wal-Mart in December appear highly likely;

* We don’t know if they’ll show up a bit before Christmas, or a bit after;

* Apple may be struggling to crank out enough iPhones to stock all those Wal-Marts. (There are 4,100 of them in the U.S., versus around 200 Apple Stores and 900 Best Buys. I’m checking on how many AT&T Stores there are. AT&T has 2200 company-owned stores.)

* The prospect of a $99 iPhone still seems unlikely. At least a $99 iPhone available imminently and sold only through Wal-Mart.

More updates as breaking news warants…



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How Low Can iPhones Go? Wal-Mart Says $99. Maybe. (Actually, I Kind of Doubt It.)

By  |  Posted at 7:56 am on Thursday, December 4, 2008

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walmartiphoneBoy Genius Report, which has a pretty good record for reporting stuff about phones before anybody else, has posted about the possibility of a $99 4GB iPhone to be sold exclusively by Wal-Mart. It does look like Wal-Mart will become the fourth iPhone seller (after Apple itself, AT&T, and Best Buy). But Boy Genius goes to pains to say that the $99 bit is a rumor from a source of unproven reliability. And as I think about it, it seems unlikely.

For one thing, I’m not sure how well the math works: At the moment, an 8GB iPhone is $199 and a 16GB one is $299. That’s a $100 premium for an extra 8GB of memory, so it’s not clear that reducing the memory by 4GB would save Apple and Wal-Mart enough to slash the price of an entry-level iPhone by $100. And a $99 iPhone would be big news and a big hit–I have trouble believing that Apple would allow Wal-Mart to rack up all those sales and deny its own stores, AT&T ones, and Best Buy to get in on the action.

Then there’s the fact that a $99 4GB iPhone would represent a major cutback in the phone’s capability to hit a low price point. That’s certainly a Wal-Marty thing to do, but it sounds out of character for Apple, which stopped selling the 4GB iPhone (which originally sold for $499) as soon as it could.

I’m not saying it won’t happen. I’m just saying I can think of more reasons why it won’t happen than ones why it might. I do think, however, that there will be some sort of sub-$100 iPhone eventually–maybe one that’s a lot like current models, once component prices have come down and Apple has released a true next-generation iPhone or two. But not now. Probably.



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Black Friday Turns Ugly. Genuinely Ugly.

By  |  Posted at 5:46 pm on Friday, November 28, 2008

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Okay, I had some fun with my distaste for Black Friday earlier today, but this is serious stuff. A Wal-Mart employee was knocked to the floor by maniacal shoppers and killed today at a store on Long Island, in a riot that sent four other people (including a pregnant woman) to the hospital. (The crowd supposedly got even uglier when told that the store was going to shut down after the staffer’s death.) And two people were reportedly shot dead at a Toys “R” Us in Palm Desert, California, in an incident thay may or may not have been gang-related.

Can we all agree that there’s no discount on a 52-inch TV or a GPS device that is worth a single human life, or even the real risk of the loss of a single human life? And that American’s retailers should be damn careful about intentionally whipping teeming crowds of people into a frenzy?

Comparatively uninmportant side note: Sears.com crashed today, presumably under the weight of Black Friday traffic. It was down for about two hours.

Report on my day: I spent much of it bumming around bookstores in Northern California’s Sonoma county, getting a head start on my Christmas shopping. Got some good deals, too. I saw no angry crowds, didn’t have to engage in any fistfights, and don’t even remember standing in line for more than a couple of minutes…



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Not-So-Black Friday Preview: Wal-Mart

By  |  Posted at 11:25 pm on Friday, November 14, 2008

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Wal Mart logoOkay, so Best Buy didn’t exactly thrill us with its “doorbusters” and supposed Black Friday specials. So, will the mecca of American retail capitalism be able to do any better? From the looks of it, not really.

According to a copy of a circular obtained by CNNMoney.com, here are the specials — and they look pretty much like the standard fare. What stands out to us is the Samsung 50-inch plasma HDTV for $798, a hundred bucks cheaper than Best Buy (probably the same model, too!).

Other items that may or may not get you moving after all that turducken:

  • Xbox 360 package for $199, includes Guitar Hero III and wireless guitar;
  • A Magnavox Blu-ray player for $128 (this is already on sale for $198);
  • and an HP Pavilion desktop computer for $398.

Standard fare on DVD and CD specials and whatnot, We don’t have the ad, and don’t expect to — Walmart is pretty quick to send out cease and desists to those that dare leak its Black Friday ads. But there you go, sorry it isn’t more exciting.

See our other Black Friday tech deal coverage by clicking here.



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Walmart.com Music “Buyers” Get a Reprieve

By  |  Posted at 10:44 pm on Friday, October 10, 2008

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There’s good news–sort of!–from Bentonville: Walmart.com, which had told folks who bought copy-protected music that it was shutting down the DRM servers that let them move their tunes from device to device, has relented. At least for the moment. Ars Technica has details, along with some good background on previous instances of big companies who gave up on DRM. In almost every case, they only made an effort to make their customers happy in the wake of a consumer backlash against their original plans.

It seems to be pretty clear that this cycle will end eventually, since DRM is rapidly disappearing. At least from music, since Wal-Mart and nearly every other purveyor of music downloads except Apple, Microsoft, and subscription services such as Napster and Rhapsody have gone completely DRM-free. (Video downloads are still almost always shackled with copy protection.)

I put “buyers” in quotes in the headline for this post because every time an entertainment merchant decides that maintaining DRM servers isn’t worth the hassle, it’s new evidence of an important point: When you buy anything that can be disabled or hobbled remotely, you didn’t really buy it. You’re just leasing it for an unspecified period. Wal-Mart’s change of heart means that period isn’t ending immediately for its customers, but it will end, apparently…and when it does, I think the right thing would still be for the company to give its customers their money back.



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