January 26, 2015
Walmart has begun selling its own HDMI streaming media stick — the Vudu Spark — for $24.95 at Walmart.com and select Walmart stores. The Wi-Fi device features a dedicated remote, is powered via USB, and supports 7.1 surround sound and video up to 1080p. It looks like the Spark is largely a single-purpose stick, loaded only with the Vudu app (Walmart’s streaming video service), but the stick is priced $10 less than Google’s Chromecast and currently includes $25 in Vudu credits over five months for customers who activate it.
According to the Vudu Spark site, the device offers easy access to more than 10,000 titles: “Vudu Spark works with your existing HDTV and Vudu is free to join. Rent, own and watch only the movies and TV shows you want from as low as $0.99.”
However, the device is not likely to compete with competing sticks from Amazon, Google and Roku since it does not offer additional apps.
“Vudu Spark is very much a one-trick pony,” suggests GigaOM. “The user manual reveals that it only comes with Vudu’s app preloaded, and there is no mention of any way to load any additional apps. In fact, Vudu’s app launches automatically as soon as the device successfully connects to a Wi-Fi network.”
“Nevertheless, with Walmart’s considerable muscle behind it, the Vudu Spark could end up finding its way into a number of homes across the country,” adds The Verge. “And since the device only serves as a portal for customers to spend money renting videos from Vudu, Walmart likely doesn’t care if it loses money selling the sticks.”