Tag Archives | Wal-Mart

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

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.

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.)

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.

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

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

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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Walmart.com Stiffs Its Music Customers

It’s DRM deja vu all over again. Yet another major purveyor of copy-protected media has alerted the customers that purchased downloads from it that it’s shutting down its DRM servers, thereby crippling the stuff those customers bought. This time it’s Walmart.com and it joins Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo in what’s becoming a really predictable tradition of handling the situation poorly.

Wal-Mart, which has shifted its site’s music store to DRM-free MP3s (good), sent a e-mail to purchasers of its earlier downloads wrapped in Microsoft DRM advising them that it will shut down the DRM server as of October 9th. Once it’s done that, the tunes can no longer be transferred to new computers or devices; Wal-Mart suggests that customers burn CDs to prevent the music from becoming unusable, long-term.

What it apparently isn’t planning to do is give those “buyers” their money back for the songs they “purchased.” Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo all ended up having to do better by their customers than they originally intended; I hope that Wal-Mart, too, will issue refunds or credits. (Actually, I woulda hoped they would have learned from the other companies’ mistake and not replicated it in the first place.)

Remember, Wal-Mart’s music was promoted with Microsoft’s PlaysForSure tagline, one of the hollowest promises ever made in the history of personal technology. I don’t know how much it would have cost Wal-Mart to keep its DRM servers chugging, but I suspect it could have come up with the dough if it had considered PlaysForSure to be an obligation rather than hollow marketing copy.

It’s beyond debate: Any time you pay for music, movies, or other content that’s locked up with DRM that talks to a remote server somewhere, you’re not really buying anything. It can be taken away from you at the whim of the merchant, without you being able to do a thing about it–and the way things have gone so far, there’s every reason to think that most such content will eventually be taken away from the people who thought they bought it,


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