Walmart’s Cloud Movie Service Shapes Up

Published on January 7, 2013
by Peter Kafka

Last year, when sunshine-cloudWalmart debuted a service that let you store digital copies of movie DVDs you owned in the cloud, it had several flaws. One of them was very big: In order to get your flicks on Walmart’s servers, you had to gather up your discs and drive to one of their stores, then find a clerk to process them for you.

Now Walmart says it has solved that one, more or less, with software that will let most users handle the “disc to digital” process at home.

Walmart says that, starting this month, users can start storing copies of some of the movies they’ve already purchased on DVDs, using Macs and PCs and its movie service.

You’ll need a computer that still has an optical disc drive for this. So, if you’re working on, say, a MacBook Air, you’re going to have to dig up an older PC, or forage for an external drive.

And you’ll still need to pay for the privilege of using Walmart’s cloud: $2 to convert a standard DVD or Blu-ray, or $5 if you want to convert a standard DVD into an HD copy. That may turn off some people who believe that paying extra for digital copies of stuff they own doesn’t make any sense.

Also note that while many of the big studios, including Sony, Warner Bros, Fox (which, like this site, is owned by News Corp.) and Paramount are in, not all of their films are available for digital storage and playback. So in some cases this will still be a moot point.

Still, the notion of hauling your discs to a store in order to move them onto the Internet made zero sense in 2012. Nice to know that Walmart has caught up in 2013.

Walmart has made other strides, as well. It recently started letting Android users download digital copies of their movies on their devices, instead of requiring them to stream them. And it says that, next month, Apple iOS users will be able to do the same.

Walmart is pushing the service in conjunction with UltraViolet, the Hollywood + tech consortium that’s trying to push movie ownership via a system that’s supposed to let users access any film they buy, on any device. And since Disney isn’t an UltraViolet member, that means none of this applies to Disney and Pixar films, which means a key demographic that would value having multiple copies of the same movie — parents with kids — won’t get as much out of this as Walmart would like.

Still, when Walmart rolled this thing out last March, it looked DOA, and UltraViolet backers have conceded to me privately that it has underwhelmed them, too. Maybe the retailer has done enough to give this thing a second chance.

Return to: Walmart’s Cloud Movie Service Shapes Up