As predicted, Walmart is now selling an HDMI streaming stick, the Vudu Spark, designed to work with its Vudu transactional online video service--albeit in a limited rollout, to about 2,400 of its stores, Gigaom reports.
Walmart's Vudu Spark, with remote. (Source: vudu.com)
Customers who purchase the stick for $24.95 and activate it will receive a $5 credit to their Vudu account every month for the next five months, up to $25.
That's a nice incentive as it effectively refunds the purchase price of the device. However, the stick apparently comes preloaded with just one app: the Vudu service itself, from which subscribers can rent or purchase movies and TV shows to watch online. Gigaom's Janko Roettgers noted that "there is no mention of any way to load additional apps," which makes the Spark "very much a one-trick pony."
That pretty much limits Vudu's competitiveness against Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Chromecast, Amazon's (NASDAQ: AMZN) Fire TV Stick, and Roku's streaming stick. Chromecast is the closest in price to the Spark, retailing for $35, but it offers a wide range of streaming apps and allows users to "cast" content from a device like their laptop to a Chromecast-enabled TV set.
Perhaps more damning is that the Vudu app is available on other streaming sticks, including the Chromecast and Roku, as well as on platforms like Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Xbox 360.
The Spark dongle itself was produced by a white-label device manufacturer, Inkel, a South Korea-based electronics vendor that first filed the Spark's specs with the FCC back in November.
So while Vudu Spark is clearly aimed at Walmart customers that just want an easy, direct way to watch their purchased or rented digital videos almost anywhere, the device's limitations and its availability elsewhere give it an uneasy Redbox Instant vibe.
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