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Published: Thursday, 5/13/2010

Wal-Mart May Sell IPads This Year


GREENSBORO, N.C. — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. may start selling Apple's iPad in 2010 in some stores as it competes with electronics chains for consumers who want to connect their e-mail, movies, games and music.

"We anticipate being able to have the iPad later this year," Gary Severson, senior vice president of entertainment for Wal-Mart's U.S. stores, said in a telephone interview. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company isn't prepared to provide specific details related to the timing and pricing of the iPad, he said.

Apple has sold more than 1 million iPads since they went on sale in the United States last month, making the debut more successful than the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. Apple sells the device, a tablet computer that lets users read digital books and access the Internet, online and in its stores. Best Buy also sells it.

Apple hasn't made any announcements regarding retail partners since the iPad was introduced, said Steve Dowling, a spokesman for the company.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, is adding more Internet-connected flat-panel televisions, Blu-ray disc players, mobile phones and routers enabling consumers to link gadgets in their homes. A similar push by Best Buy, the world's largest consumer- electronics retailer, and RadioShack boosted their earnings last quarter.

Offering more products from manufacturers such as Samsung and Sony tells consumers they "don't have to go to a specialty shop" where they have to pay more for services, said Severson, 49.

"We are working really hard to make the experience in our store more interactive," Severson said. "It allows a customer to understand, ‘Hey, this isn't as complicated as I thought." '

Wal-Mart is aiming for consumers who arrive at its stores "self-educated" about electronics, he said. Employees are being trained on new products and how they can be connected.

As an example, Wal-Mart anticipates rising demand from shoppers who come to buy a flat-panel TV and then may decide to purchase a Blu-ray disc player and a router that would connect to a computer, gaming devices and the TV. At home, consumers want to be able to download movies from services such as Netflix and Vudu, which Wal- Mart acquired in March.

"Retailers have always been good at selling a single device," Stephen Baker, an analyst with Port Washington, N.Y.-based research firm NPD Group, said Wednesday. "But the ability to connect music, movies, games and e-mail is the long-term opportunity for them," he said. "The entire industry is moving in that direction."

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