Walmart Movie Streaming on the HP TouchPad
Movie fanatics are getting yet another gift today for their TouchPads, though not in a direct way from a developer. Walmart.com, one of the largest and most well known retailers in the Western world, has made available a brand new movie streaming service based on VUDU Videos On Demand, which they acquired last year. With thousands of movies available for renting, purchasing and streaming from any flash-enabled browser, the HP Movie Store is getting some competition from an unlikely contender. Prices start at just $0.99 for their daily movie rental specials (which you can vote on through Facebook), but most movies are between $2.99 for Standard Definition and up to $5.99 for 1080p HD video with a 24 hour rental (or you can purchase the movie for unlimited viewing from your VUDU Library). The question is, how well does it work on the TouchPad, and is it a good alternative for watching movies to the options HP has given us?
From the very start, we liked the new VUDU service and what it had to offer. The collection of movies that are available for viewing is much larger than some other services we've looked at (like YouTube Movies and Hulu), though that's to be expected from a huge retailer like Walmart. Navigating through the website is a breeze, since the TouchPad follows the web standards that have been put in place for desktop browsers. including flash. Of course, Walmart's website could use a little de-cluttering, but they're probably not going to be making changes anytime soon, so we'll let that pass.
As for actually watching movies, things couldn't get much better than what they currently are. Where other services get buggy and take forever to buffer or load, thus interrupting the viewing experience, Walmart's VUDU has none of those typical problems (which means that a lot of bugginess that has been reported by reviewers is actually somewhat at the fault of content deliverers, and not the TouchPad). When you start a movie from your library, tap the bottom right corner icon to load it up in full screen view. All of the controls work perfectly, and you can even drag the bar along the bottom of the screen to choose a specific spot within a movie to jump to (with a neat thumbnail preview so you can make sure to pick the right place). We found the 720p HD movies to stream just fine, and even the SD versions weren't bad quality.
While the service is still only a day old, it does have some great potential. Yes, the prices are not as cheap as we might like them to be (you'll definitely spend more than the $16 Netflix is currently asking for a month), but they are still competitive to other on-demand movie streaming services, plus they have fewer limitations in the selection. We'll probably still stay with the HP Movie Store, if only because it's a native application with the movies right on the device. But there's no doubt we'll go to Walmart's new VUDU service when we can't find a specific movie elsewhere. If they would bring a monthly subscription package along with it, we might just call the whole thing "perfect" - but we'll just have to wait and see what the company does in the future