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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Tech Industry

Packager puts shareware into the big box

French-based Avanquest helps independent developers make the jump from shareware obscurity to the bright lights of Wal-Mart.

BVRP Software Group, a French company that specializes in distributing and marketing software from small-scale developers, announced Tuesday that it will unite its worldwide operations under the Avanquest name.

BVRP formed Avanquest last year to serve a global publishing network for small, independent developers. Regional units retained their own brands, however, including San Mateo, Calif., unit Elibrium, which handles U.S. distribution.

All divisions--covering the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Germany--will now do business under the Avanquest name. The company also has partnerships covering software distribution in Spain, Italy, Japan, Australia and South Africa.

The company specializes in packaging and marketing software from small developers, usually limited to shareware and other online distribution models, for sale in retail outlets, including major chains such as Wal-Mart, CompUSA, Office Depot and OfficeMax.

Christina Seelye, CEO of Avanquest USA, said that online distribution gives small developers an easy way to get started, but boxed products ready for retail still account for the majority of software sales. Avanquest simplifies the process of getting to retail, she said, by handling all packaging, promotion and distribution in exchange for a portion of sales.

"Downloading is fine, but we're still Americans--we like tangible stuff," she said. "There's an instant level of credibility you get having product on store shelves."

Retailers like Avanquest because the company's contacts with small developers allow quick reaction to market trends and news events, Seelye said. One of the company's biggest sellers in recent months has been GhostSurf Pro, a privacy utility that blocks Web sites from collecting personal information on visitors.

"As good as Microsoft and Symantec are, they're still a slow boat to turn," she said. "If we see a category emerging--like identity theft is a really hot topic now--we can find a developer with a product that addresses that need and have something on the market very quickly."

Avanquest also works with large developers, including Microsoft and Adobe Systems, to address international markets by producing local-language versions of specialty products. "For them to try to create the infrastructure to have a product for each and every (regional) market isn't very practical," Seelye said. "We've already got the infrastructure there."