Mobile POS Momentum in Retail
By David Dorf on Sep 13, 2011
The idea of mobile POS isn't new. Back at 360Commerce, we created a web-based mobile POS we called "Unleashed." At the time, most mobile devices didn't have enough power to render the pages quickly, so it never really took off. Home Depot deployed it on tablets attached to carts, but most retailers limited mobile devices to inventory processes. Even Apple's first version of the mobile POS, deployed on Symbol devices running Windows CE, didn't garner much attention. It wasn't until Infinite Peripherals, working with Apple, created the iPod sled that suddenly the concept caught fire.
I suppose there are a couple reasons mobile POS is now trending up. First, nowadays many retailers have upgraded their in-store networks to support WiFi. Retailers need a fast, reliable in-store network for mobile POS to work well. Second, the cost of the iPod is significantly lower than traditional (hardened) handhelds. They are cheap enough that when one breaks, nobody has to be fired. Third, customers carrying smartphones increased the their expectations for mobile checkout.
Below I created a table of tier-1 deployments of mobile POS. The dates are approximate, based on news coverage I found on the Web. I'm sure I missed some, but if I couldn't find a reliable date, then I skipped it. I used the earliest date I could find.
|12/2010|| Gap/Old Navy
|03/2011|| Urban Outfitters
Now there are several software vendors writing mobile versions of the POS, usually on the iPod and iPad. And the solutions range from tier-1 to Mom-and-Pop stores. One has to wonder if Google, who purchased Motorola, will find a way to get in on the hardware business. Or whether Microsoft will manage to get its operating system into mobile POS devices. It just seems like the iPod has all the momentum right now.