Tag Archives | Wal-Mart

The Lumia 710 is Free, But Don’t Panic

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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iPhone 3GS for Cheap. Don't Buy It!

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.


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Wal-Mart Gets Themselves Some Vudu

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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Vudu, Meet Wal-Mart

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…


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Best Buy, Wal-Mart End Used Game Kiosk Flirtation

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

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

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

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.


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5Words for March 17th, 2009

5wordsHappy Saint Paddy’s day, everybody!

Sneak peek: Dell’s Adamo notebook.

Macworld’s iPhone 3.0 wish list.

Three More HTC Android phones.

Nine-hour MSI Wind netbook.

Comcast passwords exposed on Web.

Super-fast game download service.

Boxee does an iPhone remote control.

Best Buy takes on Walmart.

Rough February for Macs, iPods.

HP adds long-life batteries.

Nintendo victorious in remote lawsuit.

Vatican: Serious about the Internet.


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