Wal-Mart focuses on MP3, but without Sony BMG and Warner

Sony BMG and Warner's music is missing from Wal-Mart's online store, which has been recently redesigned to feature its catalog of DRM-free music.

With the apparent full switch to MP3, it marks yet another former customer of Microsoft's PlaysForSure who let the DRM technology fall by the wayside. However, it appears that with the embrace of DRM-free music, some artists are not available, at least temporarily.

In a statement to BetaNews, Wal-Mart neither confirmed nor denied that it had lost the catalogs of Sony BMG and Warner Music Group with the switch, saying it does not publicly share details of "ongoing discussions."

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This seems to back up reports by Wired and Digital Music News on Monday that neither labels' artists were appearing. A check by BetaNews Tuesday afternoon seemed to confirm this.

Wal-Mart was also apparently still blocking users of Mac OS X, which should now be compatible post-switch, and the site has been working poorly in any browser other than Internet Explorer.

Despite the publicity of a recent upset from the number one position in digital music retail by iTunes, Wal-Mart seems happy about its progress in the online music front. "We've been pleased with the overall growth and customer response to our MP3 offering since our launch last August," Wal-Mart spokesperson Ravi Jariwala said. "We'll continue to work with our music partners to further grow our MP3 selection."

Confident words aside, does this switch to DRM-free really mean anything in the end? Analyst Russ Crupnick of NPD Group does not seem to share that enthusiasm.

"I don't believe it will have a major impact. DRM or format is not a primary reason why people do or don't buy digital downloads," he said. "Most are selecting Apple because they use iPods and iTunes to manage their libraries."

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