Reuters reported that Wal-Mart officially launched its on-line music store yesterday with song downloads priced at 88-cents. The Wal-Mart music store has been in testing since December. Wal-Mart also announced a two month exclusive on-line distribution arrangement with Curb Records whose artists include Tim McGraw and LeeAnn Rymes and is a large presence in the Country music market.
Analysts suggest that the main reason Wal-Mart launched this service at this time was to drive more traffic to its website. They have been considered relatively late movers in several on-line ventures including on-line DVD rental and contact lens refill services, both businesses pioneered by others.
Wal-Mart's 88-cent song price is significantly less than the Apple Computer's 99-cent price through its iTunes Music Store.
I suspect that Operation Gadget readers will care a lot about the underlying technology that Wal-Mart is using for its music service. They have chosen to base their service on Windows Media Player 9. This means that many MP3 players can play music downloaded from the store, but the iPod and iPod mini are not compatible.