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Summary:

The tablets and smartphones are continuing to disrupt many old businesses and at the same time creating new opportunities. Retail outlets and hospitality industry are next frontiers for these devices, as research from Motorola finds out. And that’s good news for Apple and Square amongst many.

square register

Apple of course!

According to a survey conducted by Motorola Solutions (that is the other Motorola business Google isn’t buying) says that retail, hospitality, and field service industries are looking forward to replacing the old, clunky and fixed point-of-sale systems with mobile point of sale systems.

Apple has been an early adopter of these mobile point of sale systems, plugging them into its iPhone devices. (Prior to the iPhone, Apple used a Windows CE based device.) Nearly 36 percent of the retailers surveyed by Motorola want to go mobile. Here are the some interesting bits from the Motorola survey:

  • Sixty-six percent of retail respondents are interested in mPOS, while 42 percent of retail respondents are currently piloting or starting trials within the next 36 months, and the majority is focused on using mPOS for sales associates on the store floor or line-busting.
  • More than seven in 10 (71 percent) retailers that indicated interest in mPOS are using or planning to use it to improve customer service and also intend to provide access to inventory management (51 percent), pricing (48 percent) and merchandise returns (42 percent) applications.
  • More than 43 percent of shoppers agreed that their shopping experience improved when store associates used mPOS devices.
  • On average, retail respondents anticipated replacing more than 36 percent of their fixed POS as a result of migrating to an mPOS.

When asked, “what equipment do you see your organization using for your customer facing applications?” nearly 46 percent responded tablets and 40.6 percent said smartphones. Nearly 51.3 percent think that they will use tablet computers for their “customer facing applications” while 49.6 percent want to use smartphones. Even field services operators want to go all tablets.

That has to be good news for the likes of Apple, which should sell a lot of iPads, especially to the high-end retailers. However, more than Apple, I find this a big opportunity for the likes of Square (and its competitors) who can build compelling mPOS apps for the same folks, Motorola is going to go after.

Here is what I wrote, when Square launched:

The marriage of computing and connectivity without the shackles of being tethered to a location is one of the biggest disruptive forces of modern times. It is (and will continue) to redefine business models, for decades.  Square is simply riding these waves. My view is that Square (or something like Square) is going to disrupt the businesses of companies such as VeriFone and Symbol, a division of Motorola that makes point-of-sale devices. Verifone makes a $900 wireless credit card terminal vs. Square, which runs on a $299 iPod touch. I rest my case. Will Square (or another Square-type company) be a success tomorrow? Probably not! But in a few years, the sheer economics of it is going to turn the tide against the dedicated hardware makers.

  1. What is missing is the ability to create applications on such a platform. I began looking at services several years ago that I thought would be ideally suited to the space. It would be nice if PayPal or Square created a platform for such services. Then again, the first that does may be the disrupter you speak of…

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  2. Nikhil Jhingan Tuesday, May 1, 2012

    A couple of months back we were looking for dedicated 2D (QR Code) scanners. All of them were more expensive than an iPod Touch and dumb (ie needed another smart device to integrate with our API’s). There was 1 PDA based scanner which was about 7x iPod Touch.

    Just based on hardware economics, the dedicated hardware industry is totally ripe to be disrupted. The writing on the wall becomes even clearer when you get to ease of software development, deployment & management.

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  3. Richard Bagdonas Tuesday, May 1, 2012

    Nicholas – SubtleData has created a platform for such services. It integrates the POS to the mobile app with APIs. It is very disruptive. :)

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  4. I found it to be really weird to walk into an Apple store, buy something off the shelf with my phone and then walk out never talking to anyone. I felt like I was shoplifting.

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