Walmart supports Ultraviolet; now the ball is in Apple's court
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Walmart supports Ultraviolet; now the ball is in Apple's court

In a move that will rev the iTunes-vs-UltraViolet battle, Walmart is offering a service that turns physical DVD/Blu-ray collections across the U.S. into digital movies.

The retailer's in-store disc-to-digital service offers the freedom to watch their DVD/Blu-ray collections from Internet-connected devices, including televisions, tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles and more -- just as iTunes/iCloud does. The service is powered by VUDU, a video streaming service, and involves the UltraViolet format.

UltraViolet is a cloud-based movie storage solution that the industry is betting (or at least hoping) will convince consumers to buy movies instead of renting them. How? The "digital locker" solution keeps copies of films you've bought on remote servers for viewing any time on various devices.

Walt Disney is the only major film studio not backing UltraViolet. Apple also hasn't announced support for the technology. There's speculation that Apple and Disney are working on a competition technology called KeyChest. If they are, they'd better hurry; the Walmart announcement is a big boost to UltraViolet.

Walmart is partnering with major Hollywood studios on the service, including: Paramount Home Media Distribution, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Starting April 16 in more than 3,500 stores, customers will be able to bring their DVD and Blu-ray collections to Walmart and receive digital access to their favorite titles from the partnering studios. An equal conversion for standard DVDs and Blu-ray discs will be $2. Standard DVDs can be upgraded to High-Def (HD) for $5.

Walmart says customers want to own physical Blu-rays and DVDs -- and also want to have digital access to those same movies for convenience. In a survey, Walmart customers cited accessibility, security, affordability, and simplicity as key decision factors for wanting a digital solution. The process to convert previously-purchased DVD/Blu-ray movies to digital copies works like this:

° Bring your movie collections from the participating studio partners -- Paramount, Sony, Fox, Universal and Warner Bros. –-- to your local Walmart Photo Center.
A Walmart associate will help you create a free VUDU account.

° Tell the associate how you’d like your movies converted:

° Convert a standard DVD or Blu-ray movie for $2; or,

° Upgrade a standard DVD to an HD digital copy for $5.

Walmart will authorize the digital copies and place them in your VUDU account. No upload is necessary, and you get to keep your physical discs. Then you log onto VUDU.com from more than 300 Internet-connected devices to view movies any time, any place. To learn more about Walmart Entertainment’s new services and to view an animated demonstration go to http://www.walmartstores.com/entertainment .

Last week Apple said five major movie studios had agreed to allow consumers to buy their films on one Apple device, such as an iPad, and watch them on another, such as a Mac, using its iCloud service. iCloud allows users to sync media -- such as TV shows, photos and, now, movies -- across Apple devices. Unfortunately, there's no movie equivalent of iTunes Match, which allows all your music -- even songs you’ve imported from CDs -- to be stored in iCloud.

I have hundreds of purchased DVDs that I've ripped to a ginormous hard drive for easy viewing on my Mac. But those "ripped" versions don't play nice with iTunes; nor can they be viewed on any of my iOS devices.

That makes the Walmart service a bit tempting to someone like me. Will Apple come up with an equivalent service?

I think it must if it truly wants to phase out optical media -- and have the iTunes Store take over the world.

-- Dennis Sellers

 

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