The iPhone will soon be making its first appearance in Wal-Mart, the nation's largest discount chain. But, contrary to some reports, don't expect any big discounts.
The San Jose Mercury News broke the story last week, and Bloomberg subsequently confirmed, that Wal-Mart employees were prepping for the iPhone invasion in a number of stores throughout California. The newspaper also quoted a Wal-Mart department manager in Milpitas, California, as saying that her store would be getting a $99, 4-gigabyte model. That's half the cost and capacity of the cheapest model currently in Apple's line-up. (See the Top 10 iPhone applications.)
Folks close to the two companies confirm that the same iPhone models you find at AT&T and Apple stores, as well as at BestBuy, are going to be carried by Wal-Mart, if not by Christmas, then the end of December. But they debunk the $99 rumor. None of my sources would say when exactly Wal-Mart would start offering iPhones. That sounds to me like Apple might be having a hard time producing enough iPhones to satisfy Wal-Mart demand. But that's just a guess.
Of course, MacWorld, which is typically when Steve Jobs works his Willy Wonka magic and unveils new products, is the first week of January. And a $99 iPhone is the kind of line extension that could be announced then as a sideshow to the main event whatever that is. But for now, at least, Wal-Mart shoppers will have to wait.