$50 Wal-Mart HD DVD Player: Fact or Fiction? (UPDATED)

Posted Fri Apr 20, 2007 at 04:03 PM PDT by

EDITOR'S NOTE: Scroll to the bottom of this article for updated information on this story.

News that Wal-Mart was planning to sell a high-def disc player at the discounted price of anywhere from $50-$299 spread across the web like wildfire Friday, but at the end of the day, the unconfirmed report raises more questions than it answers.

The news first surfaced Thursday morning in a post on AVS Forum which cited a Chinese news agency as reporting that Wal-Mart has signed a deal to produce two million HD DVD players to be sold at a discounted price of $299 a pop.

But as other online news outlets began to pick up the story on Friday (including perhaps most notably, Engadget), questions began to arise over which high-def formats (if any) the original Chinese report was referring to, as translations of the article show that it uses the phrase "Blu-ray HD DVD" or "Blue Light HD DVD" to describe the supported format of the reported disc player.

While the general consensus still seems to be that the rumored Wal-Mart player would play HD DVD discs (and not Blu-ray), without any official word from the retail giant itself, the story remains unconfirmed.

So why all the fuss? If Wal-Mart did choose to support one of the next-gen formats with a low-priced player (and did plan to produce them at these numbers) it could have a profound effect on consumer adoption and on the format wars in general. Wal-Mart is currently responsible for 40% of standard-def DVD sales, and has enormous sway with the studios as a result, so if the company were to exclusively back one of the two next-gen disc formats, it's not out of the realm of possibility that some studios might reconsider their format allegiances.

As of today though, Wal-Mart stocks both formats in limited quantities. And while recent reports have suggested that the retailer has begun favoring Blu-ray with more shelf space than HD DVD, Wal-Mart has made no public statements to suggest that it plans to be anything other than format-agnostic.

UPDATE:(4/30/07) After over a week of lingering rumors, Wal-Mart issued a statement to PC Magazine last week, denying the veracity of the reports discussed in this article, and reiterated its support of both Blu-ray and HD-DVD components in its stores and online, at least until a definitive winner in the format war is declared

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Tags: High-Def Retailing, Wal-Mart, Hardware (all tags)