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With Square Stand, Jack Dorsey & Co. reimagine the cash register

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They say all revolutions start out small. Jack Dorsey’s Square is no different.

It started off with a modest card reader, turned into a little app and now the company has developed and launched Square Stand, a point of sale system that reinvents the idea of cash register with help from Apple’s iPad (s AAPL) and Square’s software, allowing the San Francisco-based company to further spread its wings in the payments business. And if there were any doubts that the company was going after payments incumbents such as NCR and Verifone, Square Stand puts it to an end.


The company announced the Square Stand at an event in a coffee shop near its offices this morning. Square Stand, simply put, is a point of sale system that allows merchants (big and small) to plug in their iPads (2 or 3, but not the 4th generation) into a stand that comes with a swivel base (so they can turn it around for you to sign for your purchase), a credit card reader and a USB hub that can in turn allow merchants to plug in everything from a scanner to a printer (for printing receipts), a cash register (the Square Stand doesn’t hold cash, just works with other devices) and even the backend ordering system into the stand. In February this year, Square introduced its Business-in-a-Box package, but this is a much simpler and is targeted at larger establishments including restaurants.

When asked why the company was making the initial device with support for only the iPad 2 and iPad 3, Dorsey pointed out that a majority of their customers were using these two devices and as a result they had to make sure they provided the biggest support. The support for iPad 4 (the newest model available, sold as just “iPad”) will come in subsequent models. The company had launched Square Register for iPad app in March 2012 and has made subsequent upgrades to the app.

Sexy cash registers?


“We have taken something that is ugly and mechanical and made it look like a consumer product that is very sexy,” said Dorsey, chief executive of the four-year-old Square, which is based in San Francisco and has raised $340 million in funding from the likes of Khosla Ventures, Citi Ventures, Starbucks (s sbux), Visa and Chase. The company is part of a growing number of players including eBay (s EBAY) and GroupOn (s GRPN) that are looking to reinvent the offline retail business.

Square showed off its grander ambitions when it hinted at its desire to take on the likes of Foursquare and Yelp (s YELP). Square said that as of today it is processing over $15 billion in payments on an annualized basis, excluding Starbucks, up from processing $5 billion on annualized basis a year ago.

Weighing in at about five pounds, the stunningly beautiful device is pristine white and is made of moulded plastic. The USB and other accessories (called the Toolkit) are perfectly matched to the stand. It will used by 13 merchants in 30 locations. The package is going to cost $299 and and is available for pre-order.

When I first saw the Square Stand, it elicited an involuntary gasp. From packaging to the final product, it is something one would expect from the Apple dream factory; but in saying so, I don’t do justice to Dorsey and his design team. While there are many companies who are following the Apple aesthetic, to me Square Stand represents a perfect harmony of hardware, software and service. (For more on beautiful design of connected devices make sure to check out our RoadMap event in November in San Francisco; to get early access to tickets that will go on sale this Summer go here).

Digital receipts and mobile payments are the way of the future, but Square also recognizes that people pay with cash and credit cards, the company said at the press conference Tuesday morning. The support for third party peripherals will make this into an ecosystem. It will be on sale in July at Best Buy and other retailers.

Do small merchants care enought about how their point-of-sale devices look and will they spend money to replace their existing systems? “More important than how it looks is how it works. It is about making it work simply,” Dorsey said Tuesday.

Completing the sale

The Stand has been under development at Square for quite sometime. Dorsey said that reinventing the register and rethinking the whole retail experience has been part of company’s thinking from its earliest days. If the Square’s original card reader made it possible for mom-and-pop businesses to access the credit card payment infrastructure, with the launch of this device, Square can start to look at tapping into the big brick-and-mortar commerce ecosystem.

“Whenever people got Square (Register) on iPad, the first thing they needed was a stand. So we made one, and one that works seamlessly in a way that allows merchants to move people through the queue really quickly,” Dorsey said. “We wanted to build hardware that was high quality.” The speed of processing payments has been a key driving force behind the design of this device, Dorsey explained.

Square is one of the handful of companies that understands that there is a lot of money to be made in building this new kind of retail system. And it might have started out small, but now it doesn’t have much choice to get real big, real fast. After all it has to live up to is massive $3.25 billion valuation.


27 Responses to “With Square Stand, Jack Dorsey & Co. reimagine the cash register”

  1. Tiffany Wiggs

    Problem is that our company just spent $500+ on the old cash drawer and receipt printer that do NOT work with the new stand so now what am I supposed to do? They are barely a year old!

  2. i’ve been talking to square tech support and they say that they don’t offer any inventory management, which means that for me, this is not a viable system. very unfortunate b/c i was excited to roll this out in my new store but i need an inventory management system attached to my POS.

  3. Vicki Allwardt

    As a very small business owner, several years ago I bought an older used (refurbished) credit card machine for about $400. In addition to the processing fees, for a long time I paid $25 a MONTH for a statement that had little on it. I eventually found another processor who only charged $12 a month for the required statement FEE.

    The very second I heard about Square I signed up–before they were even available. I have been very happy ever since, especially because my expensive machine died and doesn’t need to be replaced.

    Credit card companies are totally fleecing merchants and governments who use them. I do not need a locking cash drawer, or probably even this stand, but I like it and think Square is on the right track. It looks nice, and perhaps needs to be made of plastic instead of metal and glass to keep costs down.

    • Stop Spending

      Same reason I switched. 3 year contracts, $300 for the credit card machines, monthly fees, per swipe fees, and then all the hidden charges at the end of the month. I run two coffee shops and was paying on average .35 per swipe and with square .20 per swipe. I save money, it is much easier to use, no contracts, cool equipment, square wallet. What’s not to like?

  4. axansh

    Good idea.But cost of device is major factor.

    I am waiting for SME seller reaction and adoption.

    By the way design is amazing and used every place very sharply.

  5. xtoddrick

    Also having the credit card swipe slot facing up seems like it will collect debris much quicker then if it was facing left or right.

  6. Brian Roemmele

    A wonderful design and genius presentation for Square on this device. However there is reality…

    iPad = $499.99

    Square Stand = $299.99

    Cash Draw = $129.95

    Receipt Printer = 299.99

    Specialty Connector Cable = $29.95

    Total Cost To Merchant = $1,259.91


    Standard Cash Register = $99.99

    Credit Card Terminal = $0

    Total Cost To Merchant = $99.99


    Square has lost it’s way. This is not the way to “disrupt” the Status Quo existing Practical and Pragmatic merchant. Square is suffering from a reality disconnect of the needs of the 95% of real merchants outside of the tech centers in the US. The reality is the system they use is not seen as “broken” by a vast majority of merchants and costs like this will not do anything to change this thinking, in fact it will take Square out of the realm of possibilities for these merchants.

    Do a test, ask your favorite small merchant if they would spend north of $1,200s for what they currently use. My bet is that you will see and old cash register and and old credit card terminal at these merchants and they would nicely or perhaps vigorously state that what they have works and is not broken.

    Square needs to work with experts that have empirical experience in actually working with these Practical and Pragmatic merchants. Buying into the idea that they are “disruptors” will continue to cost Square many lost opportunities.

    Although this is a spectacular device to look at, I am sad to say that it was designed in the vacuum of a design genius, Ivory Tower.

    • NoOne

      In a very real way you’re mad at Square for not making a bicicle to disrupt the motorcycle market though when you call out Square for not disrupting. They may both be two wheeled devices that are designed to transport people, but they serve radically different markets. Same thing here.

      Many Practical and Pragmatic merchants, especially in larger operations, LIKE POS stations because they do a lot more than ring up sales. In that market, the terminal costs are a fraction of total cost of ownership, which resides mostly in the back end (either in cost of self hosting, or outsourcing to the vendor). The real test will be with Square’s back end, and how it integrates with inventory management software, it’s costs and fee structure, etc.

      The hardware is a trivial concern then. Also even factoring in the price of an iPad 2, it’s on the low end of cost in that market.

      Do some research before lashing out mindlessly because something doesn’t meet your very narrow definition of disruption, especially before saying a company has lost it’s way because it doesn’t conform to your expectations. At most you can say that you don’t see value in this, not that it intrinsically doesn’t have value. This is a low end entrant into a highly lucrative, and massive space, that you simply dismiss by associating them with $100 cash registers.

      • Brian Roemmele

        This is my point. The reality is that 95% of small merchants do not use POS systems, to this day they continue to use Cash Registers and old Payment Card Terminals. There are a multitude of reasons for this. But I can assure you from an empirical standpoint it is not because:

        – Cost- There have been low cost or “free’ touch screen POS systems for over 10 years.

        – Software- There has been relatively easy to use software for over 10 years.

        – Access- At last check there are 1000s of options.

        – Data analysis- Quickbooks, love them or not love them currently hold the space for inventory and accounting for the 95%. The least used feature is the data analysis feature, it always has been.

        I like Square and have some close friends at the company, in my view they have some of the best programmers and designers in the industry right now. They produce great products. However all of this great work can not take place in a cultural vacuum. This is where the Square lost it’s way, buying into the complete misperception of being “disruptive”. Square is not and never will be disruptive as long as they require the use of Visa (a Square investor) and MasterCard. This false concept promoted by some in the company and the tech press has created a focus in the wrong direction when reaching up market into the classic, non mobile small business.

        Tech companies that have entered into markets as complex as Merchant Processing and not engage with experts that know this industry empirically always make the same basic mistakes.

        As I have mentioned, the 95% that Square is aiming for are not using POS systems. Do a check in your city or town and actually ask why the vast majority are still using 1970 technology. It will be surprising. I have had this dialog for over 30 years in this market.

        My inner technologist wants these merchants to explore and exploit the great things we all can create. However when you shift to seeing the world through the lens of the actual merchant and not in theory, a far, far different view is established. There are 100s of opportunities for startup companies in this market. I suggest a number of viable avenues, however trying to fix something that the merchant has not perceived as broken will never find a high degree of success.

        • Stop Spending

          This is very simple, just look at the numbers. If Square was not catching on their numbers would reflect it. The numbers show that it is catching on. I have used Square for 2 years now and started with the iPhone switched to iPad register last year and bought business in the box just a few weeks ago. POS systems are not easy to use, very expensive and outdated. POS systems will begin to disappear in 5 years if they do not reinvent themselves.

          • Brian Roemmele

            This is really good news and is why Square has had great success in the micro merchant market space!

            Square and PayPal will continue to dominate this space until the iWallet extension to Passbook is released later this year. At that point Square and PayPal would face disruption as Apple will have an entirely new process that would likely render other solutions on iOS devices, redundant.

            As for the 95% of small merchants. No they are not asking for “faster horses” while Mr. Benz is inventing the motor carriage. From our technology view this is how many view the problem. There is no relativity to this analogy at all when dealing with why there is little technology used at the 95% of small businesses.

            Thus your experience with Square is great, however by virtue of you being on an exclusive Tech media site like Gigaom, you are in the 5% that use technology extensively. My posting here is about the 95% who do not, nor never will visit our great Tech media sites. I am speaking of merchants that are not early adopters, or lat adopters, they have proven themselves to be non adopters for a multitude of technologies. And to my point, this does not make them dumb, they are Practical and Pragmatic.

            It is our job in tech to understand them, not for they to understand us.

    • Nic Garth

      @Brian, you are quite misguided at how much a comparable POS system costs. Also you seem to own a credit card merchant company so I can see why you’re butt-hurt. No one wants to deal with inventory management on a old cash drawer, or with setting up a remote printer for the kitchen.

      • Brian Roemmele

        @Nic Garth,

        Good points, can you explain why 95% of small merchants do not use a POS system? Or even a computerized inventory system?

        Do yourself a favor and visit small merchants in your area and ask why. You will be very surprised. Of course national merchants use POS systems and can justify it. However Free POS systems have been available to small merchants for a decade and still no uptake. This is not a technology problem. As much as I would like it to be.

      • Brian Roemmele

        This is a good question.

        “Dorsey: It’s a complicated question because there are many different answers to that. If you go to the very, very bottom of the line, a cash register, you can buy one from Sharp, Panasonic for $300 dollars to $600 dollars. These are unfortunately calculators on top of cash boxes. When you start getting analytics, when you start getting into some of the features that we have built into the software, integrated cards swipes, you are talking more than $5,000 and close to $10,000 dollars. That usually includes a two-year lease or a two-year agreement for service.”

        This statement assumes that merchants have been demanding these things. The reality shows something entirely different. Intuit owns the inventory and accounting marketplace for almost 20 years. The least used aspect of Quickbooks is the data analysis dashboard, it is not because it is hard to use or the graphics are not pretty.

        Intuit also naturally assumed that the 95% of small business outside of our tech centers wanted POS systems. After a decade of Intuit trying, even in some cases giving it all away for free, there was no uptake. This is not because it was a really bad product. It was because it fixed something that the merchants did not view as broken. As much as all of us in the Tech world would like them to adopt technology, they do not see the benefits.

        This is a very complex problem, but it is not nearly a technology problem. Thus the idea that some merchant will now wake up to this new technology when they had not even considered a lo cost computer is a disconnect from the actual reality. And thus the calculations Jack used do not accurately reflect reality. I wish it would, but it does not.

        • I wonder, though, if we lean too much on historical experience & learnings in the SMB technology solutions market. Won’t the SMB owners of tomorrow be much more tech savvy than those of the past 30 years and therefore be more likely to adopt these analytics solutions than the companies Intuit targeted over the past decade. People starting businesses in 2013 are much more likely to have grown up with a computer than those starting businesses in 1993 or 2003.

          • Brian Roemmele

            Hi Mike,

            Great site and write up! You make a number of valid points. Of course over time the Practical and Pragmatic merchant will continue to deploy technology. There is little doubt about this.

            Understand that I fully want to see technology used at small businesses and for years found it frustrating. However I spent time personally with 1000s of merchants, sometimes cutting onions at 4am while speaking to restaurant owners. You get a PhD doing this long enough. I have done this for over 30 years. Over this period merchants saw a huge change in the technological landscape. Yet with the rise of the PC and the dramatic Moore’s Law price drops, there has never been more then 5% os small businesses using POS systems.

            It is not because of:

            -Cost- Free or low cost POS systems have been in the market for over 10 years.

            – Software Usability- Although the iPad is a superior touch interface, it is not optimized for most retail use cases. Software usability varies but this is not the reason for low uptake.

            – Data Analysis- Data Analysis has been a cornerstone in Quickbooks for over 20 years and yet it is the least used major feature in Quickbooks.

            – Inventory mangement- The reality is a vast majority of small merchants do not keep active inventory on computers.

            Thus as you can see, the premise that small merchants have for over 30 years did not know they could do these things are at best wishful thinking. Small merchants that last past the 2 year mark are the Darwinian example of an optimized business. They make mistakes but at the peril of losing their businesses.

            I say do not go by my 30 years of empirical experience, do your own simple and easy to perform research. Ask you favorite small merchant why they do not even have a computer, let alone an iPad at the checkout counter. I assure you that you will be fascinated by the reponses.

            The reality is that Technology and easy access to Technology has not been the impeding factor with the 95% os small businesses that do not use POS systems. It is far, far more complex then this.

            There are endless opportunities for Square and other companies to enter into this space. However understanding history and working with people that have direct empirical knowledge would have allowed these companies to focus on the real issues small business face, and there are many that none of these companies have even began to address. If they understood this clearly, we would have seen solutions long before these type of products.

    • The cost of using square to accept credit cards is way cheaper than the other options out there for credit card acceptance terminals… I have looked into them, some cost upwards of $500 to rent, plus the *FEE* for accepting the cards, and to take American Express costs even more… yes $1200 is a chunk of change, but in order for a small business to be even a percent of potential competition for the standard big business you need to invest in something to help you help clients faster.

    • Alex B

      I am with Brian on this one and the article reads as a advertisement for Square, there is not a single critical thought in the whole article. I would expect better from Om Malik

  7. xtoddrick

    “the stunningly beautiful device”

    So they’ve taken a truely beautiful device made out of metal and glass and placed it in plastic. That’s not beautiful, or sexy; that’s insulting.