Enterprise-Class vs Consumer-Grade Mobile POS

By  Jessica Binns — January 11, 2011

In an effort to keep up with consumers' demand for the latest technology, retailers such as Barnes & Noble  and bebe are interested in deploying mobile POS systems using iPhones and not the usual retail-hardened enterprise-class devices such as Motorola or Honeywell rugged mobile computers.

Barnes & Noble is piloting a mobile POS solution in its Tribeca location in New York, NY. The deployment is an example of using mobile POS in a "line-busting" application, stepping in and assisting customers on queue who may only have one or two items to check out.

Payment solutions provider Verifone is scheduled to fully release its PAYware Mobile Enterprise Solution later this year. The solution incorporates an iPhone docked inside a Verifone case which offers some protection against drops and falls but also features a PCI-compliant magnetic strip reader and keypad. The main sales transaction--scanning items for purchase and totaling the transaction--are conducted on the iPhone's touchscreen, but after swiping a debit card, the consumer would flip over the device and securely enter the PIN. For credit card transactions, consumers simply sign on the touchscreen using their fingers.

So why the sudden interest in mobile POS systems that shy away from a sturdier enterprise device in favor of consumer-grade technology? "It's the 'cool' factor," says Erik Vlugt, VP of product marketing, integrated systems, Verifone. Rugged devices might be fine for the stockroom and warehouse but for consumer-facing applications, retailers want to deploy technology that's already familiar to both shoppers and sales associates.

Ease of deployment certainly is a compelling argument for iPhone-based mobile POS solutions. The iPhone's easily navigable GUI--which may already be familiar to employees--trims training time and enables devices to be rolled out more quickly. And although enterprise-class devices might seem to offer a longer lifecycle, "those rugged devices get lost or broken, too," points out Morten Jorgensen, director, Retail Banking Research.

For many enterprises, cost is the ultimate deciding factor when deploying mobile solutions. Vlugt says pricing information for PAYware Mobile Enterprise hasn't been finalized yet, but that the solution would be "competitively positioned" against traditional enterprise devices.

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