I suspect the Germans have a word for taking something great and then stripping it of everything remotely joyful until it's a cold hollow shell not fit for existence. Now I do too! Well, two words, I guess: Vudu Spark.
The Vudu Spark is not a thing you can purchase yet; as first reported by GigaOm, it is a "Chromecast competitor" from Walmart that is wending its way through the FCC. I say "Chromecast competitor" because while Chromecast features dozens of compatible apps, according to FCC filings the Vudu Spark only features one. Vudu. Which is also on Chromecast. Which means Vudu Spark is no more a Chromecast competitor than Don Zimmer's ghost competes with the Yankees.
That can't be right, you're thinking, as well you should, because you live in a world of rational actors, a pre-Vudu-Sparkian age of innocence. But look no further than the dongle's user manual, which is literally eight pages of how to set up your Wi-Fi followed by this:
Uh huh, okay, just Vudu, got it, and then we get to go download other...
Oh okay cool but then on the next page is how to get like Hulu Plus and whatever, obviously, except there is no next page aside from fine print, most of which is was probably written in the throes of some sort of cackling, ether-induced madness.
If the Vudu Spark does turn out to be a Vudu-only streaming stick, there are very few ways to make sense of it. It's possible that Walmart, which owns Vudu, thinks that enough of its billions and billions of customers won't realize that there are other, better options available. Or more specifically that literally every other option is better. Or maybe one (1) Vudu Spark will be given away free in select Monster Energy 12-packs?
The good news is, there's still time for this to be not-terrible. I got the following response from Vudu after reaching out for some clarity on the situation:
At VUDU, we're always looking at new ways for our customers to experience the movies and TV shows in their VUDU library. We're developing a streaming stick and will share more information in the coming months, so stay tuned.
When I asked if it would be exclusively Vudu—which, again, the FCC documents are clear about—the spokesperson said they'd have more to share in a few months. Hopefully that's because they're taking that time lining up streaming partners. And they did confirm that Vudu would still be available on as many other platforms as would have it.
A lot of unanswered questions! In the meantime, here is a picture of the Vudu Spark remote. It looks okay.