“Apple Computer has initiated a partnership with Wal-Mart that will soon see the iPod shuffle featured at Wal-Mart discount locations around the country, AppleInsider has learned. According to sources close to the retail giant, Wal-Mart in April will begin receiving mass quantities of Apple’s new iPod shuffle digital music player, which it will then make available in many, if not all, of its nearly 5000 locations,” Kasper Jade reports for AppleInsider.

“The deal between the two companies will be capped by a feature in Wal-Mart’s March tabular advertisement, sources say. Typically speaking, a Wal-Mart feature calls for at least 50 units — in this case 25+ of each shuffle model — per hometown store, while metro area locations would require significantly larger quantities of the product. Figuring conservatively, with 5000 stores each receiving approximately 50 units, the feature alone would demand a quarter million shuffles,” Jade reports.

Full article with more information here.

MacDailyNews Note: A quick visit over to Wal-Mart’s WMA-infested (and iPod-incompatible – which hasn’t stopped them before – see related articles below) online music store currently yields this:
We’re sorry, this Walmart.com service is temporarily unavailable. Please check back at a later time for this service.
In the meantime, there are other Walmart.com products and services available to you. We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your patience.

Interesting development or just a coincidence?

The Wal-Mart online music FAQ is still working and currently states:
Will Wal-Mart Music Downloads play on my iPod?
At this time, the Apple iPod will not play Wal-Mart Music Downloads files. Our files are in the WMA format with DRM (Digital Rights Management) encryption. Many other media players will play our files.

Perhaps Wal-Mart has decided now that they’d actually like to sell songs? And the best way to do that would be to offer a download format that works on the market-dominating iPod family of devices, right? Questions, all – no answers, yet. Stay tuned…

[UPDATE, 1:23pm ET: An MDN reader has informed us that he contacted ASDA UK (a Wal-Mart subsidiary) and asked if the iPod shuffle deal included the UK. He was told be a customer service rep that iPod shuffle deal will cover the UK as well.]

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Wal-Mart begins selling 20GB ‘Apple iPod from HP’ which is incompatible with Wal-Mart Music Download – September 19, 2004
Mossberg: RealPlayer Music Store ‘not as good as Apple’s iTunes, but better than Wal-Mart’s entry’ – April 01, 2004