Palo Alto, Arkansas

Now what do we call Amazon.com?

Wal-Mart announced Thursday that it's staking its own claim to the Net, spinning off a separate Internet company, Wal-Mart.com. If the name isn't a surprise, the announcement itself was, at least according to the Wall Street Journal, which joined CBS MarketWatch as one of few outlets to get out a full story Thursday night.

"Unexpected," wrote the Journal's Emily Nelson and Kara Swisher, who noted that Wal-Mart's site - previously an online placeholder - surfaced from the depths less than a week ago with a relaunch. All of a sudden, the company appears ready to do e-business, and the site's wide-ranging offerings - from travel bookings to potting soil - threaten to make offline supercenters look like niche plays. So far, no one's expressed doubt that Wal-Mart can catch up to Bluelight.com, the Net venture Kmart has begun with Softbank.

As Wal-Mart enters e-commerce in earnest, it's holding hands with Silicon Valley VC firm Accel, which will take an undisclosed chunk of the dot-com in exchange for an undisclosed stack of cash, and good old-fashioned Valley know-how. The retail giant has also elected to base its dot-child in Palo Alto, Calif., rather than Bentonville, Ark.

Curiously, both the Journal and a Bloomberg report on News.com pegged Wal-Mart's deal with Accel as a sign of the retailer's skittishness in jumping into e-commerce. Since when did partnering become cause for shame? Should Wal-Mart apologize, too, for going to AOL last month to create a cobranded Internet access service? Others argued that Wal-Mart was showing signs of Net savvy. It's moving online before it really needs to do so, as MarketWatch's Tom Bemis noted, since offline sales are soaring: Wal-Mart Stores reported sales of $24.1 billion for December, a 26 percent increase from a year ago. Thursday, the company's stock was trading above $63, just a couple of bucks under Amazon's price - and that's before Wal-Mart made its dot-com announcement.

Those numbers should be enough to keep Jeff Bezos awake in the dark, worried that the next pile of Internet cash will create a Walton family mountain.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

More about Accel GroupAmazon.comAOLBloombergBlueLight.comCBS CorporationSoftbankWall StreetWal-Mart

Show Comments