by Michael S. Palmer
This morning at the historic Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, in the same room where the very first Academy Awards were handed out 83 years prior, Walmart announced an in-store disc-to-digital initiative to help its consumers embrace The Cloud with their existing movie libraries. Partnering with 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros., Walmart's service will be powered by its Vudu streaming movie service, which until now has focused mainly on one-time rentals.
Starting on Monday, April 16, that's all going to change. Have you ever looked at your aging DVD collection and wished you could watch some old classic in high definition, but A) the title isn't available yet, or you B) really don't want to spend the money buying the movie again at full price? Well, Walmart has a solution for you, with the ability to upgrade your DVDs and Blu-rays to The Cloud in either standard, or high definition, and later watch them anywhere via VUDU.
Here's how it works:
1. Bring in any physical Blu-rays or DVD (from the above studios) into your local Walmart.
2. Choose HD (720p) or SD quality. Blu-ray to HD or DVD to SD "conversion" will cost $2 per title, and DVD to HD "conversion" will cost $5. But the important thing to know is that this isn't really a conversion or a traditional movie 'rip'; Walmart employees will simply verify your movie and authorize that title for your VUDU. Oh, and you get to keep your disc!
3. Log into any Vudu-enabled media player to stream your movies anytime, anywhere (well, as long has you have an Internet connection). There are currently over 300 devices, including Phones, PCs, TVs, Blu-ray players, PlayStation 3s, or XBox 360s.
Also, for anyone who has UltraViolet Digital Copies, which are often included in multi-disc Blu-ray releases, you'll be able to watch, and purchase, UltraViolet titles directly from your VUDU account as well.
However, for your average HDD reader, there may be a few hiccups.
First and formost, while I'm a huge fan of VUDU's HDX 1080p (as well
as Dolby Digital Plus in 5.1 or 7.1) format, I confirmed that this
disc-to-digital service is
only for VUDU "HD", which is 720p. Second,
what about all the earlier versions of Digital Copy (the
pre-UltraViolet movies), which often cost more than the Blu-ray only
copy of the film; will these be ignored? And, as movie collectors, do
you really want to haul boxes of movies into a store to have them load
your films into your VUDU account?
UPDATE: VUDU Customer Care rep Dan H. stated in this forum that the HD upgrade will be for HDX, so hopefully he is correct, rather than the PR rep at the actual event, who hopefully was mistaken. Apologies for any confusion, and thanks to HDD Forum member towergrove for finding.
Then again, $2 for a
720p 1080p copy of your Blu-ray, or $5 for a DVD you
never watch anymore, that you can access anywhere around the world (as
long as you have Internet access) seems like a fair price and
something that will work great in most scenarios, leaving the physical
Blu-ray as king of the home theatre for the biggest screens and most
powerful sound experiences. Also, the Walmart brand brings a lot of
weight to the table; I think many are wary of The Cloud because
they've been burned by "hot new tech ideas" before, but Walmart's been
selling movies for years, and the VUDU experience is already well
designed and easy to use, so perhaps consumers will be more confident
about embracing digital ownership? Hard to say.
What do you think, Dear Readers? Anyone curious about this and willing to try? Is this the right step forward for The Cloud? Hit up the Forum link below and lets see what we all think.