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Wal-Mart joins downloadable movie battle

Wal-Mart is now serving up digital downloads. But how does their new service stack up to the rest?

Wal-Mart is joining the fray of movie download services today. Its new store (which is mysteriously unfriendly to Firefox) features movies from all six major studios including Disney and Sony--two studios that have a long history of proprietary use and ties to competing download services.

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Films range from about $13 to $20 and can be watched almost immediately depending on your connection. Movies are managed and played through a custom player that runs only on Windows PCs. You also can watch the movies in Windows Media Player. Like the iTunes Movie Store, titles released on DVD will be available digitally the day they're out.

The files reside on your hard drive and can be backed up and transferred to a portable device. Each file weighs in around 500MB to 1GB. Downloaded movies will play on Creative's players and several Archos models, but not your iPod or (no surprise) Microsoft's Zune.

This new service doesn't get me that excited. I'd like to see the prices on digital downloads come down substantially. I'm not sure who is going to pay $13 to $20 for a DRM'd download that has no special features and can't be downloaded again upon accidental deletion. There are a lot of competitors in this field, and I think the lack of compatibility with iPods and PSPs makes choosing a digital download over an actual DVD tough.