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Crave Talk: Has Tesco gone too far?

Tesco has just announced its own brand of budget office productivity and anvivirus software -- but should we be wary?

We've got to hand it to Tesco. Not only has it helped spark the demise of hapless independent stores, challenged established petrol stations and started its own clothing line, but it's now going head-to-kneecap with Microsoft with a range of budget software titles.

Now, when you traverse the aisles in search of baked beans, sanitary towels and two-for-one packs of raw mince, 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. Other programs are also available, including personal finance and photo-editing software.

We know what you're thinking: the Tesco antivirus software will actually come with built-in spam, straight from the shelves, and the office suite will let you calculate the cost of your weekly shopping and nothing else. But both apps should, in theory, be pretty good. They're created by the guys and gals who make and distribute the excellent Ability Office and Panda Antivirus software, though the Tesco-specific products are said to be unique in design.

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.

The BBC has reported that Tesco currently takes one in every eight pounds spent in the UK. It's now on course to surpass £2.5bn in profit for this year, the equivalent of £67 from every adult in the UK.

Andrew Simms, policy director at the New Economics Foundation, has likened the company to "some massive invasive predator that kills off other species" -- referring to the chain's hand in the demise of independent stores. It's also threatening the likes of Argos with its Tesco Direct catalogue-style business, and will be opening stores in the US where it will tussle with Wal-Mart for supremacy.

Is Tesco taking over? Is its inexorable move from canned soup to essential PC software, MP3 players, VoiP phones and just about every imaginable aspect of our lives a good thing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. -Rory Reid

Update: Tesco news just in -- the retail behemoth has just slashed the price of FIFA '07 on PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable to £29.97, undercutting the major games retailers by a considerable margin. It's also started selling a selection of budget titles, including FIFA '04 for Xbox and Enter the Matrix for PS2 for as little as 97p. The price madness extends to chart albums, too: you can now get Alright, Still by Lily Allen and Inside In, Inside Out by the Kooks for under a fiver. (Thanks to MCV.)