Joe Stanley the Top Executive at Our Annual Arkansas Business of the Year Awards

Above, Joe Stanley of Polk Stanley Wilcox accepts the Arkansas Business Executive of the Year Award on Tuesday night at the Statehouse Convention Center. Stanley kept his remarks brief, capping an inspiring night that highlighted some of the best success stories in business and nonprofits in Arkansas.

You can see video of all the winners at ArkansasBusiness.com here or on YouTube. I’ll point out three of my favorites of the night: Paul Strack’s gracious words for his parents; Kathy Findley accepting the award for Nonprofit Executive of the Year for all the people her group, Safe Places, helps each year; and a heart-warming endorsement for Friendship Community Care Inc. of Russellville.

It makes all of us at Arkansas Business look forward to next year.

Wal-Mart Has to Make Digital Downloads Work. Vudu is Step 1

Vudu and Wal-Mart

The Vudu that you do so well

They’ve tried movie and music downloads before, and the world’s largest retailer is about to try it again with Vudu (which some say the retailer paid $100 million for).

Wal-Mart, the biggest seller of physical media — CDs, DVDs — has known for some time that the model is dying. Check out the shrinking shelf space for CDs and DVDs at your local Superstore. It absolutely has to make a splash in downloadable content.

While its previous foray into MP3 sales was an abject failure, movies could be a different story.

If Wal-Mart can sell TVs and Blu-Ray players preloaded with this Vudu app, then they’ve got a fighting chance alongside other services like Netflix, which comes as an included feature for many Blu-Ray players these days, a possibly an advantage over cable on-demand, in that you don’t need a cable connection to receive it — only broadband Internet.

Some analysts see Wal-Mart in an uphill battle:

Phil Leigh, an analyst with Inside Digital Media, an independent research firm in Tampa, argues that Vudu’s offerings of downloadable movies may be too limited.

Why would consumers buy a pricey new TV or DVD player just to gain online access to movies when they can already do that with services from Netflix, Amazon.com and that little company in Cupertino, Calif. named Apple .

“The Vudu acquisition is a realization that TVs and other entertainment appliances need Internet capability. But on the whole, consumers want unlimited access, not just movies. You can already do this with a Mac mini or Windows-based laptop connected to your TV,” Leigh said.

I disagree. I think that for most consumers — particularly Wal-Mart’s bread-and-butter core customer — hooking up a Mac Mini or Windows-based laptop to a TV — to say nothing of using services like Hulu and Boxee — is still too complicated.

An app like Vudu, built right into the new HDTV you just bought for a super-low price at Wal-Mart, seems much easier to use. And with Wal-Mart muscle, you can expect Vudu’s content deals with Hollywood studios to improve.

The next possible challenge for Wal-Mart, then, would be to get broadband Internet access to more of its core customers, many of whom come from rural areas where high-speed Internet access is little more than a rumor. Could we see the world’s largest retailer throwing its weight behind rural broadband initiatives one day?

More

Wal-Mart Picks Up Digital Vudu – What’s next? [BusinessWeek]

Wal-Mart’s Buying Vudu After All [Gizmodo]

Wal-Mart Takes a Swing at Amazon [ArkansasBusiness.com]

Video: Jim Holt Campaigns in Sherwood

Jim Holt, the Springdale business owner who’s run for Lt. Governor and U.S. Senate, is back at it again, among a big field of Republican’s seeking the GOP’s nomination to run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Blanche Lincoln.

Holt, a former state Senator, was in Sherwood on Sunday at a meet-and-greet hosted by Darrell Brown, a long-time Republican Party supporter, a former staffer for U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson, a volunteer on the Mike Huckabee presidential campaign and, of course, a friend of mine going all the way back to high school.

So of course Darrell invited me to come out meet Holt for the first time, which I gladly did, having met none of the Republican candidates.

Holt, on the stump in Sherwood

I watched Holt talk for more than a hour to about 30 current and prospective supporters, some who drove all the way from Heber Springs to meet him. It was a group eager for change, most decidedly not the type President Barack Obama promised in 2008. It was a group that believes government has gotten too big, taxes too much, operates in myriad unconstitutional ways and is trending ever-so-quickly to socialism.

Holt agrees and wants to stop it. He wants smaller government and fewer taxes. He fears Americans have forgotten their heritage, and are thus “easily persuaded” to fall into any number of nefarious Marxist traps. He’s perhaps the most conservative, to-the-right — yes, “extreme” — candidate seeking the nomination, an assessment he won’t argue with. He loves the Tea Party movement and is inspired by its voice in American politics.

Personally, he’s a nice guy, eager to talk about kids and sports. He’s a long-talker, speaking a full hour Sunday before taking questions. His sentences can get lengthly, and when he gets going, he often abandons one right in the middle, jumping abruptly to the next thought. He’s prone to off-the-cuff remarks. He’s aware that these sometimes get him in trouble.

But he’s also unique in the giant field of Republican candidates in that he’s the only one who’s faced Lincoln before. As the party’s nominee for U.S. Senate in 2004, he ran unsuccessfully against the Democrat. But despite a meager campaign budget, won 44 percent of the vote.

At least one poll showed Holt retaining a strong position in the hunt for that Senate seat. But that was before 3rd District U.S  Rep. John Boozman got in the race, a move that will make it harder for Holt to raise money and keep voters attention. Should Boozman’s move out of the 3rd be a good opportunity for Holt, who could instead throw in for that seat in a more conversation part of the state? It might be. But he’ll hear none of it. He’s in it for the Senate.

After the meet-and-greet, I got a few minutes with Holt, who stayed well past the end of the event despite facing a long drive back to Springdale. In the video above, he talks about how he plans to stand out among other Republican candidates for Senate. After the jump, two more segments on his relationship with the Republican Party and his views on legislative compromise.

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The Razorbacks’ Infrastructure Plans, Home Design and the Democrat-Gazette Drops the ‘N’ Bomb in This Week’s Arkansas Business

Lots to get to this week’s Arkansas Business newspaper, online now and at your local newsstand (they still have those!):

It’s never enough is it? The University of Arkansas’ athletic department “has earmarked between $250,000 and $500,000 for an analysis of current and future facilities. Commissioning the study is the first step in what could eventually be tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades.” Chris Bahn tell us what they want now.

Sam Eifling rummages through the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s archives to see just how often — and why — the newspaper publishes the dreaded ‘N’ word. Then he gets an e-mail from editor Griffin Smith.

Fox 16 tells us why it just wasn’t worth it to try and get some Sarah Palin video on the sly at Verizon Arena.

It’s never enough is it? Jan Cottingham notes several Arkansas architects who say the state is bucking the nationwide trend toward smaller homes. Bigger is still better!

And Now, Our Obligatory Frolic-in-the Snow Video

Above, snow falls on Today’s THV’s Weather Garden, and Tom Brannon shoots a weather update.

After the jump, another 40-sec shot of snow falling downtown, including over the Arkansas River.

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