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Wal-Mart Enters HD Packaged Media in Earnest

20 Apr, 2007 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Retail behemoth Wal-Mart, heretofore a spectator regarding HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc, is quietly ramping up efforts to overcome its late arrival to the next-generation optical media party.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart is selling the recently reduced $399 Toshiba HD-D1 player ($348 online) and Blu-ray RCA HD V5000 ($450) and Philips BDP900 ($898) in about 750 stores, with movies in both formats available in additional stores, according to a company spokesperson.

Melissa O'Brien, senior manager of corporate communications for merchandise, said the chain will carry Sony's new Blu-ray player when it is released. Wal-Mart also stocks Sony's PlayStation 3 game console, which includes a Blu-ray drive.

Wal-Mart's beachhead in high-def packaged media could evolve into something more significant following a report the retailer had ordered 2 million Chinese-made HD DVD players for $100 million.

AVS Forum reported that upstart Taiwanese consumer electronics manufacturer Fuh Yuan had partnered with TDK in China to manufacture the projected $299 players.

Spokesperson O'Brien wouldn't comment on the HD DVD player order but said Wal-Mart is in the process of revamping its electronics department to entice both tech savvy early adopters as well as general consumers with improved products at discounted prices.

“[Most] of the shoppers asking about and purchasing either Blu-ray or HD DVD are already pretty savvy technically about both — they are the kind of consumer that absolutely wants the very best and latest in quality that's available,” said O'Brien via e-mail. “It's not quite yet a product the average shopper is attune too, but we anticipate that will change very soon as prices continue to come down.”

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