Being first to market can be overrated in business. the Wright brothers will be remembered for being first; Boeing made the cash.

We've been "exclusively" reporting Morrisons' plans to move into internet grocery shopping since new CEO Dalton Philips was in short trousers. And now, we were right!

Well, sort of. Philips is exploring a dizzying array of formats but internet grocery shopping remains the most remote, with trials not commencing until the second half of 2011. It's fair to assume Morrisons won't be rolling out a national internet grocery shopping offer for a while yet.

Yet being first to market can be overrated in business. The Wright brothers will be remembered for being first; Boeing made the cash. John Logie Baird invented the TV; Sony took the spoils. And Google seems to be doing OK, despite ceding early-mover advantage to the likes of Infoseek (RIP).

In the same way, it will be interesting to see if Morrisons can make up for lost time learning from the mistakes of others and come up with a better, more profitable online solution. And, as Philips weighs up the merits of four existing models, perhaps the most intriguing option is if Morrisons goes down the virtual route adopted by Ocado.

Ocado has written off a lot of money figuring out how to make a warehouse-based "supermarket" work. (The backyard at its Hatfield HQ used to resemble something out of Scrapheap Challenge, I'm told). Morrisons could feasibly arrive at an effective solution, more quickly and cost effectively.

There's may be a fifth option, though: to buy Ocado. It offers Morrisons an instant 'in' in the south-east, where it's weakest. And by the time Morrisons has decided which option to take, Ocado should have built a second distribution centre that could service Morrisons' heartland in the north.

The Waitrose contract might even have expired by then. With Ocado's market cap this week down to £800m, it's getting cheaper, too.

And don't forget: we told you first.

Read more
Morrisons moves into convenience and online (9 September 2010)
Philips to set out Morrisons masterplan (6 September 2010)
Waitrose’s Hodgson is lured to Morrisons job (12 June 2010)
Morrisons’ momentum stalls with slow first quarter (6 May 2010)