Tesco enters crowded market for home IT troubleshooting

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The Independent Online

Tesco is the latest company to consider tapping into the potentially lucrative world of home IT support after acquiring a small company called PC Guys and launching a trial of the service in one of its stores.

The supermarket giant is only dipping its toe in the water with its new IT support service. It has set up a trial at its Bar Hill store near Cambridge to gauge reaction to the service. Two weeks into the trial, it is not prepared to comment on possible plans to expand the trial or roll out the service nationwide. Within the store, it has established a Tesco Digital section where users can seek help and advice, or pay to get a "PC Guy" to set up the system for them. It will cost the customer 70 to have a home cinema system set up.

The much-maligned computer geek, made famous in such films as Revenge of the Nerds and Weird Science, is becoming an increasingly important figure in today's digital world. The explosion in popularity of social networking sites, online banking and other online activities like downloading music and watching TV online has meant consumers have become increasingly reliant on their computers. However, many computer users are still befuddled by technology, often struggling to set up and use wireless networks and entertainment systems, or remain concerned about online threats such as spam, viruses and spyware.

A number of big companies have realised that just as consumers need a plumber to come around and fix their pipes and an electrician to do the wiring, they may also need a geek to set up their computer and teach them how to use it.

Over the past 18 months, a slew of companies have entered the market including BT's Home IT Advisory service; Carphone Warehouse's The Geek Squad; PC World's The Tech Guys and Comet's Comet on Call, all of which offer to talk confused consumers through the process of setting up their computer networks.

It is not clear whether these services make any money, but the long-term benefit for retailers of electronic equipment and broadband providers will come from a more digitally competent public that want better networks and computers. Tesco's potential entry into the market is a major bonus for geeks across the country with wages for computing specialists on the rise as more companies fight to bring in experts.

Graduates schooled in IT struggled to find work after the collapse of the tech boom five years ago, while much development work has moved offshore to countries such as India.