If you woke up this morning with a hangover and found you'd drunk that 12-year-old bottle of single malt you bought for your dad, it is still possible to buy a last-minute present thanks to the Internet.
Several online stores, such as Amazon.co.uk and Dabs.com, now sell software that you can download immediately instead of having to wait for the packaged version to arrive by post. Perhaps the best-known software download site, though, is Tucows.com. Tucows.com has several UK mirror sites, making downloads faster, but the transaction system is US-based, so you will be paying in dollars and should take account of the exchange rate when working out how much it's going to cost you.
You can also, of course, check out ZDNet UK's software downloads section, but remember this is not an e-commerce site. You can download commercial software from here, but will have to register afterwards, and if you do register commercial software you will be asked to pay the software vendor directly.
You may feel that downloading software onto someone's PC and then telling them "it's there" lacks some of the ceremony that is supposed to go with Christmas presents. If that's the case, some stores, such as Amazon, offer gift certificates: you buy the certificate and Amazon delivers it to the email address of the recipient; they can then use it to buy physical goods from Amazon's Web site or pick and download software themselves.
The system in place at Dabs.com takes the buyer through the normal purchase process on the company's Download Store -- once complete they will receive an online confirmation page with the download button and a receipt. The confirmation page gives you the option to download the product immediately or later. So instead of downloading the product yourself, you forward the confirmation page with the download button and the receipt through to your chosen recipient. The only point to note, says Dabs, is that the software will be registered to you, not to the recipient. Oh, and the product can only be downloaded by one recipient.
See ZDNet UK's Christmas & New Year Special for our look at the tech world in 2001, and what's coming up in 2002, plus a shopping guide with reviewers' best buys.
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