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Walmart, Vudu Ripping DVDs to the Cloud

Walmart is prepping a cloud-based movie service where users can bring their DVDs into stores in order to access the same material online.


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Walmart wants to be your movie server in the cloud, the digital bin where users store all DVDs for access on all Internet-connected devices.

Walmart, in conjunction with Vudu, has launched an in-store program that turns DVDs into digital cloud-stored copies which, presumably, would be accessible over tablets, smartphones, smart TVs and more. Walmart acquired Vudu in Feb. 2010.

Walmart, which has support from major movie studios such as Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros., the service will launch on April 16, 2012 in 3,500 stores.

The back catalogs of the participating movie studies are vast, and the news release didn’t say how many total titles would be available.

It’s a little curious that this news comes the same week that courts, pressed by movie studios, came down hard on Kaleidescape, the maker of a very successful hard drive-based DVD movie server.

How it Works
Users need a Vudu account, which is free. You walk your DVDs into a Walmart store and load them into a device (think a self-serve kiosk) and purchase the rights to a digital cloud copy. Yes, you purchase the right to a movie you already own. In this case it’s $2 for a standard definition version or $5 for a high-def version (you don’t need a Blu-ray disc to convert your title to high definition).

You can then take your discs back home with you. The process doesn’t actually upload the content of the disc, it just authorizes the title to be placed into your cloud locker. If you try to take in a disc your neighbor already authorized, a team of Walmart greeters will wrestle you to the floor.

Users then log onto their Vudu account from their Internet-connected device and watch the movies added to the cloud locker. Walmart says there are over 300 compatible devices.

The system uses UltraViolet technology, but it’s considerably cheaper than buying a new UltaViolet title. Some new Blu-ray releases come with a free UltraViolet authorization included, but this appears to be an easy way to take advantage of older movies purchased before the UltraViolet system was in place.

The Vudu service requires users to physically go to a Walmart store. At CES 2012, Samsung showed a Blu-ray player that essentially does the same thing, but from the comfort of your own home. Instead of Vudu, your cloud locker resides on Flixter, which is available on far fewer devices than Vudu. One other interesting differences is that Samsung said standard definition cloud copies would not cost anything to register, but you could upgrade to an HD version for a fee. The Samsung product hasn’t launched yet, so we don’t know exactly how that will pan out.

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