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UK's Biggest Supermarket Challenges Microsoft 356

An anonymous reader writes "The UK's equivalent of Walmart is taking on Microsoft in the software game. Tesco is famous for it's cheap 'value' food, but it's now offering 'value' alternatives to Microsoft's biggest products. From the article: 'Now, when you traverse the aisles in search of baked beans, sanitary towels and two-for-one packs of raw mince (hamburger), you can grab yourself a copy of Tesco Office (£20) — an alternative to the almost de-facto standard that is Microsoft Office — or Tesco Antivirus (£10), which is designed to keep your PC free of malware.' Tesco apparently 'takes one in every eight pounds spent in the UK'."
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UK's Biggest Supermarket Challenges Microsoft

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  • Then why don't they just use free alternatives from the internet. Open source or just plain freeware?
    • by cliffski ( 65094 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @01:08PM (#16293733) Homepage
      Because the kind of person that will buy anti-virus software in a supermarket is not likely to know what to do with downloaded zip or rar file they will get from sourceforge.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Sounds like the companies that sell open source software should follow the lead.

      That is, sell their own software in supermarkets.

      It'll be a lot easier to make progress there than at hardware sellers (Dell, HP, etc.)

      It just needs to be sold as a way to extend the life of old PCs.
    • by NSIM ( 953498 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @01:42PM (#16294355)
      >Then why don't they just use free alternatives from the
      >internet. Open source or just plain freeware?

      Because the vast majority of people wouldn't know where to look for such software if you gave 'em a map, and a high percentage of those who did find "free" software would manage to download all sorts of spyware and other crap in the process.

      Perhaps Sourceforge should put up a "PC Essentials" list with the more mature free/open source products list on it, today I defy defy the average PC user who doesn't know specifically what they are looking for to find safe free sources of software and get what they need without spending a lot of time and effort.

    • by fantomas ( 94850 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @01:43PM (#16294365)
      Because the UK media have been telling people "careful about what you click on when go online, there are bad people out there". People don't trust little weird geeky sites which assume knowledgeable users.

      It's way confusing out there for non-geeks. It took me a long time to explain to my dad the difference between "being online" and "the web" (...the blue E button isn't the internet, dad, it's a program you can see some of the internet with, yes I know it's weird it's called Internet Explorer but it's not exploring all the internet ...). Hey I don't mind. Internal combustion engines confuse the hell out of me and don't even get me started on different washing cycles on the washing machines... technology eh?!

      Lots of people trust the biggest supermarket in the country, it sells them food they trust, clothes they trust, and they sell computers these days. So they'll trust "Tesco software".
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Hawthorne01 ( 575586 )

        If Tesco can do this in the U.K., why can't Wal-Mart do it here? Or Costco? Or BestBuy? Or Fry's?

        Jes' thinkin'...

        • Because WalMart is practically in bed with Microsoft, and Tesco is not?

          If Tesco had the sort of "relationship" that Walmart does, and were making as much money off of selling MS software to begin with, they wouldn't bother cooking up their own 'Tesco Office' to sell.

          If Walmart wanted to do something like this, they could probably muscle MS into making them a Walmart-branded version of Office and sell it. Apparently they don't want to associate their company name with computer software (something that many Americans associate with obnoxiousness), and they're content to just sell the MS-branded boxes.

          You don't "insource" when you're making perfectly good money selling the other guy's stuff already. That Tesco is doing this indicates to me that they aren't as cozy with MS as the U.S. retailers are.
      • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @02:09PM (#16294753)
        Because the UK media have been telling people "careful about what you click on when go online, there are bad people out there".

        But you say that like it's a bad thing! It's actually true, even if it's a lot more nuanced than as presented - just like everything you get from aimed-at-a-large-audience news/communication. Economics, legal matters, cosmology, genetics, giant multi-million-node internetworked systems... I think it's better they say "careful!" than say "there are free things out there that can work well for you, start looking."
      • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @05:30PM (#16297923)
        Because the UK media have been telling people "careful about what you click on when go online, there are bad people out there". People don't trust little weird geeky sites which assume knowledgeable users.

        They also are told not to download lots of stuff online and be wary of software being offered for free. People don't expect quality software to come without a price tag and are suspicious of free office programs and free operating systems, thinkng they are loaded with spyware or unsecure in some other way.

        Maybe what OSS needs to do is ironically enough, start charging people (even if it's just ten bucks) pool resources and lease some space on a grocery store display if they want to increase marketshare, rather than directing people to a free download.
  • or Tesco Antivirus (£10), which is designed to keep your PC free of malware.

    Now they can get to work on an antivirus for the food [] they sell!
  • As someone from the U.S., just navigating their website sucks. [] doesn't even seem to have software, let alone a MS Office replacement.
    • by julesh ( 229690 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @01:30PM (#16294167)
      I think this is because the range hasn't actually launched yet. See pre-launch web site here [].

      Anyway, speaking as someone from the UK who shops at tesco regularly... yep, their website sucks.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Ability Software (makers of the office suite) has a web site with a comparison to MS Office and screen shots here: php?ln=us []
    • Tesco are a supermarket that everyone's heard of and been in to buy something or other. It makes far more advertising sense for them to put up posters in-store than an ad on the web, especially as the target audience are not the type to go directly to a supermarket's website. Those of us that buy software online are going to go to Amazon, or, or somewhere similar.

      I could go on and on, but I hope I've made my point.
    • As someone from the U.S., just navigating their website sucks.

      Well, they must be doing something right as plenty of people have no problems having food delivered to their homes.

      UK only gag coming up:

      Every little helps
  • Profits (Score:3, Informative)

    by VJ42 ( 860241 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @01:10PM (#16293769)
    'takes one in every eight pounds spent in the UK'.

    I hear this figure quoted regularly, but noone ever backs it up with a source; however they must be doing somthing right, they've made £1.1bn in profts [] in the last six months
    • Nah, it's bollocks. Tesco are big, but their turnover is around 35 billion pounds. If the one in eight figure was correct national spending would be just 280 billion. Clearly utter bullshit.

      • by julesh ( 229690 )
        That would be approximately £4,000 per capita. I'd say that's a plausible figure for _general retail_ spending, perhaps. Obviously if you include home purchases, rental, other big purchases (cars, etc.), utilities and so on it'll be dwarfed.
  • From the article: The software is manufactured by a combination of Panda Software, Filestream, Ability and Software Dialog. I've used the panda software, but haven't heard of the others.
  • And Tesco took £1.1bn in PROFIT.

    That has them at around $4bn US (and then some, because the latter half with Christmas is usually far more profitable than the first half) profit per year compared to $2.5bn approx for Microsoft. They aren't going to have to bow to pressure.

    Walmart (who do compete in the UK after buying ASDA) were past $10bn in 2005 by comparison.
  • by oscartheduck ( 866357 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @01:11PM (#16293807)
    Has anyone been to a tesco and confirmed this? I checked their website and the nearest they had for office =office&confirm.x=0&confirm.y=0 []was office chairs. Google mentions press releases that confirm this, but no one seems to know exactly what the office suite contains, and most importantly I couldn't find any mention of compatability with MS Office. If it *is* compatible with Office, that'd be kind of neat.

    Of course, I suspect, like many others, that's it's just repackaged, but we'll have to see.
  • Alternatives (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Apocalypse111 ( 597674 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @01:12PM (#16293823) Journal
    Having alternatives is nice, and I'm all for breaking MS's near-monopoly in this area, but the big question is about quality: do these products do the job, and do it well? Do they offer analogs to the features that many MS Office users have come to love and depend on? Do they read Office formats?
  • Summary (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bfree ( 113420 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @01:12PM (#16293825)
    by the guys ... who make ... Ability Office and Panda Antivirus ... Tesco-specific products ... unique in design.
    I wonder if they will get their PC suppliers to install their software by default?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )
      Tesco are a PC supplier. When you walk into a large Tesco, the first thing you see is a large row of shelves stacked high with boxed PCs. I haven't checked to see if there are Tesco Value PCs, but I wouldn't be at all surprised. With the volumes they ship, I would imagine they can ask their wholesaler to bundle pretty much whatever they want.
  • from ement.htm []

    The software will also be sold in conjunction with computer hardware, following Tesco's entry into this market earlier this year, and via
  • by LaughingCoder ( 914424 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @01:15PM (#16293893)
    who thinks that the vast majority of MS Office purchases (like 95%) are businesses? last time I checked, businesses didn't shop at Walmart or their equivalent when purchasing their software. Now perhaps Joe Random User might buy this stuff, but that won't put a dent in MS sales, other than perhaps the "Student Edition" of Office.
    • Well, if you include educational institutions and city/county governments as "businesses", then you're probably right. Most of their employees use the company CDs (or copies of them) at home. Students can generally get a copy for almost nothing at the campus bookstore, if they want it.

      I honestly don't know a home user that's purchased a copy of Office at anything close to full price since 2000.
  • by Andy_R ( 114137 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @01:16PM (#16293899) Homepage Journal
    Tesco here in Britain have Apple iBooks for an amazing £0.03 less than the Apple website price!
  • tone? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kebes ( 861706 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @01:17PM (#16293917) Journal
    The tone of TFA confuses me. It's clearly anti-tesco (anti-big-business?), with phrases such as:
    The supermarket chain may be saving the consumer hundreds of pounds (MS Office can cost in excess of £300), but it's already making more money than it presumably knows what to do with.

    Huh? Since when do companies make more money than they know what to do with? The profits are reinvested and/or end up with investors. And since when is it a "bad thing" for a company to turn a profit.

    I understand the anti-Wallmart argument where 'the little guy' is driven out of business, but TFA is describing how Tesco undercuts Microsoft and (see 'update' at the bottom) major media outlets. It is acting as if competition between massive multinational, multi-billion dollar companies is 'mean' and 'not fair.'

    That, to me, makes no sense. Competition in any marketplace is typically good for the consumers since it keeps prices at a reasonable level, forces companies to innovate, and forces companies to compete for customers!

    I wish Tesco plenty of success in their attempt to undercut software in this fashion. If they can use their brand-name to get people to realize that software needn't be so expensive (and moreover to realize that alternatives are viable), this is a net positive.
    • Re:tone? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @01:48PM (#16294433)
      I agree with you and think the company should offer whatever product it thinks will increase its customer base and profits. However it is a common phenomenon for large companies to have more money than they know what to do with. Investors only rarely get their money back in this way. In the early 80's companies figured out that people had stopped investing in companies and started trading stocks. This means people made money of the stock price not the actual return on investment so dividends dried up and the culture of short term gain for stock price goodness was born. Happily the dot com crash did bring the "investor" back into vogue and companies are starting to rediscover the wisdom of the build a strong business that returns its profits to investors strategy. If this continues we should see a decrease in market volitility in exchange for dividends being brought back and licked to actual profitablilty.

      Anyway back to the point. Very large profitable companies (we should all have this problem) sometimes make more money than they have ideas to spend it on. Different companies handle this differently Wal Mart, Microsoft and the oil companies tend to store massive cash reserves and keep doing business as usual contributing to the stagnation of the economy. More resposable companies hire better management with new ideas and some companies like Google just throw money at every crazy Idea they can until something sticks and makes more money.

      SO after that rambeling mess it currently is not popular to return money to investors and soemtimes it is just hard to spend the huge wave of cash that some large succesful businesses generate.

      Although if they wish to remain on top they will need to distribute the money in reserve properly. Since this is Slashdot I should mention perhaps Microsoft should have spent a little more of that massive reserve on making Vista not suck.
      • If the company can't find a reasonable way to reinvest the funds, they should give them to the owners.
        BRK.A has been quite successful at reinvesting internally.
        Some other companies pay out some and keep some earnings. Exxon pays out roughly 25% of their corporate profit, and reinvested the rest.

        In Canada there is a whole class of investments (income trusts) that simply give ALL earnings back to the owners, with little reinvestment in the underlying business.

        To be fair the tax treatment of dividends in the U
        • To be fair the tax treatment of dividends in the US was quite poor and encourage companies to avoid providing dividends.

          Bingo. The tax structure in the U.S. favors gains in the share price over dividends, so as an investor, I would prefer that a company reinvest its profits (thereby hopefully raising the share price later) than give me the profit as a dividend, so that the government can come and screw me for most of it. Prior to 2003, there were situations you could get into where the tax rate on dividends
    • by esme ( 17526 )

      And since when is it a "bad thing" for a company to turn a profit.

      Perhaps you're not terribly familiar with the English and their attitudes, but they are much more likely to regard success with suspicion, if not hostility, than Americans are. And given the other bit in the blurb (that Tesco takes in 1 of every 8 pounds spent in the UK), you can imagine that many of the anti-success and anti-corporate attitudes that apply to Walmart here apply to Tesco in the UK.

      I lived in the UK for a couple of year

  • by lonesometrainer ( 138112 ) <> on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @01:17PM (#16293921)
    According to: 27 [] the company coopertating with Tesco is FormJet. They'll distribute via []. FormJet has a Website online (a bit difficult to find from their homepage) where the products are listed: []. They list an office suite there called "Ability Office".

    The "Ability Office" website is at: n=en [] and has a wikipedia article at: [].

    This is not just one of the usual OpenOffice forks.
    • Holy Return of Obscure Software, Batman!

      I used to use Ability Office back when it was a DOS-based, x86 text word processor, spreadsheet and database in the late 1980s, early 90s.

      That thing just won't die!

  • Office Software (Score:5, Informative)

    by tyleroar ( 614054 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @01:19PM (#16293977) Homepage
    The office software is called Ability and will just be branded as Tesco. More information about Ability here []. The website lists their entire office suite at a cost of $70 (US). The individual packages (Word processing, spreadsheet, database, paint, presentation, photo album) are available for $27.90 each. 20 Pounds = $37 so that's considerable savings. The interface is appears to be a straight clone of Microsoft's office suite. It is able to open and save to Microsoft Office formats, no idea on how well, tho.
  • I think this is a great thing. While it is less expensive to download free alternatives from the Internet, there are a lot of people who don't trust that method, or don't have the bandwidth to support it. Anything that gets a different name out there is good for competition, which is good for the customer. I think it would have been better to have rolled it out in August - just in time for back-to-school shopping. You could pick up notebooks, pencils, crayons and an office suite for your kids.

  • When are they going to start selling hardware? I wan't my USB Fish'n'Chips!
    • by julesh ( 229690 )
      When are they going to start selling hardware?

      Err... they already do. A friend recently acquired a P4 3.0GHz with 15" TFT screen from them for (IIRC) about £400.
  • The UK equivalent of Wal-Mart is ... ASDA Wal-Mart.

    Next you will be saying the dolphins in a football field circling the moon equivalent, right?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      I think "equivalent" in this case means "massive leader in the supermarket industry" in the UK... which they are.
    • I puzzled on the Tesco=WalMart as well. Tesco is big, but it is a pretty distinctly different experience from WalMart. For one, they're not all exactly-the-goddamned-same. Hell, some feel like normal department stores.
  • Tesco is using... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sfing_ter ( 99478 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @01:34PM (#16294211) Homepage Journal
    Formjet PLC for the software, Formjet owns:
            * Panda Software (UK) distributes Panda Software antivirus and security products in the UK.

            * Ability Software International distributes a powerful suite of office products.

            * FileStream (UK) is involved in applications ranging from the backup of computer resources to highly sophistcated graphics solutions.

            * Software Dialog UK is a specialist security reseller to the corporate marketplace.

            * South Coast Distribution is an established supplier to the OEM market.

            * Ideal is an online marketplace. It services the electronic trading requirements of the Formjet Group and third party vendors.

    So I think we can see where this is going, Panda Anti-Virus, and Ability Office 4 branded for Tesco... c'est la vie say the old folks, it just goes to show you never can tell.
  • I'm curious as to why hamburger was bracketed after raw mince in the summary. Mince is just meat put through a Play-Doh extruder, usually beef or lamb. Yes, you can make your own hamburgers out of mince, but the majority of people in the UK buy mince for dishes like spaghetti bolognese and shepherd's pie. Do Americans not buy raw mince at supermarkets? If so, is it labelled 'hamburger'? To me, this is as strange as having 'potatoes (french fries)' in the summary.
    • by radish ( 98371 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @01:44PM (#16294389) Homepage
      Yes, mince is called hamburger in the US. Kind of like ground pork in the UK is usually called sausage meat even though it can be used for more than just sausages. So the summary was translating for the USians as mince doesn't really mean much as a noun here.
    • by nuggz ( 69912 )
      Ground beef is often called Hamburger in North America. It is almost exclusively beef.

      The formed disk is often called a hamburger patty. While "a hamburger" would be the sandwich.

      The term mince is not used to my knowledge, and might cause confusion with mincemeat which has no meat.
  • Can someone from the UK fill us ignorant North Americans in on Tesco?

    It sounds like a public company (they announce profits). Who owns them (the big stake holders)?

    Are they a company (like Ikea) that makes an effort to have their products recyclable? Do they donate money to charities? Do they outsource their jobs to India and use Chinese labour to make most of their products? Are they know for poor labour practices and letting split-open bags of fertilizer sit in a parking lot next to a river (both of which
    • by radish ( 98371 )
      Tesco are the largest supermarket chain in the country. Their primary business is food and groceries, but they led the charge into other product types (clothes, music, etc) in a similar way to Walmart in the US - all of the major UK supermarket chains have followed suit. In terms of target market, I'd say they aim right to the middle. Asda (owned by Walmart) is (IMHO) cheaper and sells lower quality stuff. Waitrose is a higher end, more expensive brand. Tesco sit with Sainsbury right in the middle ground. T
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mormop ( 415983 )
      Yep, Tesco are a Public Limited Company(PLC) meaning their shares are traded on the open stockmarket.

      As for their behaviour, they seem no better/worse than anyone else. More expensive than Asda (Walmart) and cheaper than their main competitor (Sainsburys) they sell groceries and, in their bigger stores, clothing and domestic goods. As you'd imagine, made in China is the order of the day and as with most supermarkets, wages are kept as low as possible to keep prices down. Aside from that, I can't say that mu
  • You know, like here: 21/1653231 []

    Cry Havoc! And let slip the Hounds of the Bar!
  • I wonder if this is going to do more harm for alternative software.

    We already know that Joe Sixpack doesn't like learning new software. When he buys some crappy software for a reasonable price and it just doesn't have the feel of MS Office is he going to feel ripped off and reject alternatives even more because of this bad experience?

    It'd be nice to think that this is going to be good software but I really don't think it's going to end up that way. I think that Joe is going to demand all the bells and whi
  • Tesco offers cheap, cheap prices to the consumer. To do this they really screw their suppliers, because they have such a market presence that allows them to pretty much dictate the rate at which they buy their goods.

    Also, I used to work for a very large logistics firm that handled a lot of their deliveries. They string their suppliers out in terms of paying them too. They are awful customers. That said though, you can't argue with their prices. I wish there was one near me, I'd shop there.

I've got a bad feeling about this.