Comment: Taking in Tesco’s new tablet

Terry Murden. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Terry Murden. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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The days when supermarkets enticed shoppers with nothing more exciting than a new variety of yoghurt or a fine wine are slowly fading.

To a growing list that includes clothes, white goods and mortgages, Tesco is now adding tablet computers.

The Hudl will retail at a third of the price of Apple’s iPad, but Tesco was keen to assure sceptics at its launch yesterday that it has not compromised on quality or versatility. It has designed and built the device from scratch, contrary to some expecations that it might be a simple badging exercise. It will run on the Android operating system and according to Tesco it will be every bit as good as anything else on the market.

Despite that, there are those, including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who doubt that pricing at this level is profitable, but Tesco is cashing in on the fall in the cost of components and growing demand that may see tablets outsell personal computers by the end of the year, bringing down the price.

Tesco will be heavily marketing its new baby, not least because it knows that, while its brand is strong in its core business, it is not a recognisable name in the world of electronics. In that respect it may have to use price as one means of overcoming the aspirational attraction that goes with the likes of Apple.

This move appears to be driven by the growth of the digital economy, particularly online shopping, and Tesco’s desire to ensure its poorer customers are not left out. It may be offering a range of apps, but there is one that takes the shopper directly to its online service and to Blinkbox, an on-demand film business in which it holds a majority stake.

This remains, however, a curious and courageous launch by Tesco boss Philip Clarke, who is trying to reshape the company after its disastrous foray into the US and the profits warning last year. He has chosen a keenly-fought battleground for his next war and it will be interesting to see whether the Hudl can succeed when even the mighty Microsoft is still trying to make the breakthrough with its Surface device.

Simple banking still a test for Lloyds and TSB

With no branches in Scotland, Lloyds Bank customers whose accounts are in England have been advised they can use TSB branches until further notice.

But that guidance failed at the first attempt last week when I tried to pay in a cheque at the newly-named TSB branch in Hanover Street, Edinburgh.

At the second attempt it made it, or so it was assumed. The cashier said he no longer had access to my account on screen so gave me a receipt – just in case – and suggested using a Lloyds-owned Bank of Scotland branch next time. As a previous attempt at paying in a cheque to Bank of Scotland also failed it does not fill me with much confidence.

Several billions have been spent integrating and separating various banking systems and I was hardly engaged in some sophisticated derivatives transaction. If there are problems with the simple process of paying in a cheque then it makes you wonder what all that money has been spent on.

The European Commission forced Lloyds and RBS to sell bank branches as a condition for receiving state aid. But no-one asked for the opinions of customers who have been forced through no choice of their own to change bank. This is not what switching was supposed to be about.

Twitter: @TerryMurden1