Software joins food and phones in UK supermarkets

Software joins food and phones in UK supermarkets

UK supermarket chain Tesco is to launch six PC software applications under its own brand, including a word processor and antivirus software, later this month. The software packages will sell for under £20 (around NZ$55), and will include free online support via email.

British ‘white label’ software distributor Formjet PLC will supply and support the software, through its subsidiary Formjet Innovations. Formjet holds the UK rights to distribute Panda Software’s antivirus tools and Ability Plus’s word processor and office applications, among others. It founded the Innovations subsidiary to sell versions of the software under other companies’ brands.

Formjet has software partners in 16 countries, and is looking for other sales outlets, says company spokesman Graham O’Reilly. “At the moment we’re concentrating on the UK, and we’re talking to other retail partners.”

For Tesco, Formjet has branded the software’s packaging, code and online help with the supermarket chain’s name. In a market where technical support is increasingly outsourced to offshore destinations with lower labour costs, Formjet has set up its support team in Crawley, south of London.

The antivirus and security software packs will include one year’s email support and software updates, says O’Reilly. After that, customers can renew their subscription online or buy another pack at the supermarket. Formjet will impose no time limit on email support for the other applications.

Even at such a low price, it’s doubtful Tesco will gain much market share, one analyst says, pointing to Microsoft’s continued dominance of the office software market, despite the availability of competing applications for much lower prices, or even for free.

“Many low-cost or free packages exist in each category, yet products that are many times the price of the cheapest option continue to dominate,” says Ovum’s David Mitchell.

If it is to win customers, Tesco must make sure its applications can read and write files compatible with Microsoft’s Office suite, he says.

The software won’t look out of place on Tesco’s shelves: the supermarket already sells mobile phones, and is an internet service provider, internet telephony operator and mobile virtual network operator.

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