Wal-Mart to Expand Disc-to-cloud Movie Service to 30 Countries

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Leveraging the power of 5000 stores, Wal-Mart plans to expand its Vudu cloud video service from U.S. shores to as many as 30 countries beginning in June, including European, Asian, and Central and South American nations, according to reports.

The new cloud movie service, officially launched earlier this month, is expected to give Netflix a run for its money.

Vudu has already surpassed Sony and Amazon in digital video distribution market share, according to IHS iSuppli, while still lagging behind Microsoft's Zune and Apple's iTunes services.

Wal-Mart expects to expand into Mexico first, followed by other Latin American nations, according to a report in Variety magazine. Wal-Mart also plans to offer the service in the UK and Ireland and then Asia, according to Variety.

The Vudu service allows owners of DVDs or Blu-ray movies to bring their content to a store, pay a small fee, and gain access to the same flicks through any device from the cloud.

The Vudu service, is similar to Apple's iTunes Match service launched last month. The iTunes Match service allows users to upload CDs and have them stored in Apple's cloud from where they can be accessed through any Apple device.

While Wal-Mart's Vudu service purports to "store your" movie content, in reality it simply verifies that you already own the content, and charges you a fee to access the movie through their cloud service. Wal-Mart's one-time carges are $2 for a standard definition or $5 for a high-definition DVD, or $2 for a Blu-ray movie.

Once licensed, users can stream movies directly to Vudu-enabled devices such as an iPad, a desktop or laptop computer, an Xbox 360, a PlayStation 3, a Blu-ray player, and an HDTV.

Unlike Netflix, which requires a credit or debit cards to purchase titles, Vudu allows users to buy pre-paid cards with which they can access new movie content.

The service also allows users to upgrade DVD titles they own to high-definition Citrix's HDX.

The Vudu service, which Wal-Mart purchased in February 2010, offers over 4,000 titles and is now available in about 3,500 stores.

Vudu uses a relatively new digital rights management standard called UltraViolet, that enables access to streamed content regardless of the electronic device.

Launched in January, 2011, UltraViolet is backed by virtually every major U.S. studio, as well as technology giants such as Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, Microsoft, and Hewlett-Packard. Users of Wal-Mart's Vudu service must first open a free UltraViolet account.

Wal-Mart's Vudu service also allows users to access UltraViolet movies purchased at other retailers or redeemed through other service providers.

"You can stream and download any UltraViolet movies using VUDU, at no extra charge to you, regardless of where they were purchased," Wal-Mart states on its Vudu site.

The fact that the service doesn't actually upload your movie content is why not all movies are available from Vudu, only the list that have been legally cleared for digital distribution from studios participating in the UltraViolet program.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

Key words: Walmart, Vudu, disc, Blu-ray, DVD UltraViolet standard, movies, iPad, desktop, laptop, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, HDTV, Lucas Mearian

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