Apple stores to ditch Windows EasyPay systems for iPhone tech

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Apple retail stores are looking to move away from Windows Mobile-based handheld checkout devices in favor of iPod touches with custom accessory add-ons, with a transition expected to follow the release of iPhone 3.0 later this year.



Apple's EasyPay terminals



Starting back in 2005, the company's retail outlets began using EasyPay, a specialized PDA device built by Symbol and running Windows Mobile, after a pilot program validated the practice of using employees with mobile devices to speed checkout lines. Apple has pushed to expand the program ever since.



The company has obvious interests in replacing the EasyPay devices with its own technology, however, both to improve reliability and efficiency, as well as to show off its own devices in action. Apple retail stores have already begin using iPod touch units running a Concierge app to triage visitors needing support and schedule appointments for them. Internally, store management also uses a Red Zone Report application to track store sales and performance.



However, Apple's initial positioning of its mobile technology as a smartphone has limited the company from using the iPhone to replace the more generic EasyPay devices outright. The main barrier has been a lack of support for peripheral devices in the iPhone hardware. EasyPay terminals need to plug into a credit card reader, something that hasn't been possible on the iPhone, but will become available with the move to the new iPhone 3.0 software.



Heal thyself



While Apple could build its own point of sale (POS) system from scratch based on the iPhone's technology, doing so would be an expensive undertaking just for the couple dozen devices needed by each of the 225 retail stores. It would also result in a completely proprietary system that the company probably couldn't successfully sell outside of a narrow niche of retail stores with similar needs. Devices like the EasyPay are open enough to allow for a wide variety of customization using Microsoft's Windows Mobile software, even if the tools and the underlying software aren't that reliable or desirable. That specialized market isn't enormous, so it would be difficult for Apple to justify trying to compete with its own iPhone-based POS device.



Instead of introducing a dedicated POS sibling to the iPhone and iPod touch family, Apple instead worked to expand the iPhone platform to suit the needs of developers. With iPhone 3.0, that includes new support for working with peripheral devices over USB through the Dock Connector and wirelessly using Bluetooth.



Demand for participation in the accessory program from developers proposing new hardware devices has exploded, with insiders noting that Apple is overwhelmed with interest. Apple itself will benefit from those platform stretching efforts. At last year's release of the iPhone 3G, various problems with the EasyPay Pocket PC devices ranging from unreliable hardware to buggy software resulted in frustrating delays that created long lines for buyers, particularly people trying to get the new iPhone 3G.



There's an app for that



This year, a software app is expected to help iPhone 3.0 devices sell themselves, quite literally. There's already POS titles available in the App Store, including CCTerminal, which costs $50 and enables users to ring up purchases using a credit card merchant account. Apple began promoting the new app in one of its latest ads showing how small businesses can ring up sales, print shipping labels, and track shipments using various iPhone apps.







Inner Fence's CCTerminal app is an example of one of the more prominent mobile POS terminals on the App Store.



Sources familiar with Apple's plans say that the company's retail stores plan to begin rolling out iPhone units running customized POS software with support for an external credit card reader unit as early as July, with expectations of completing the rollout by September. The new iPhone 3.0 devices will pack concierge, ordering, and store management features into a single device, allowing Apple to dump its large inventory of problematic and clunky looking Pocket PC PDAs with sleek new iPhones that show off how relevant the company's mobile platform can be to businesses.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 71
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    Cool deal. About time they ate their own lunch.
  • Reply 2 of 71
    cameronjcameronj Posts: 2,357member
    File this one under 'duh, what took so long'
  • Reply 3 of 71
    chris_cachris_ca Posts: 2,543member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    in favor of iPod touch



    Which is it? The touch or the iPhone or both?

    With the camera, the iPhone could be used as a UPC scanner but hte touch doe snot have one. Or is it something they are adding?

    Or would a scanner be one of the add-ons? Perhaps both will be unveiled?
  • Reply 4 of 71
    nace33nace33 Posts: 94member
    Now what am I going to joke with the Apple Store employees about????
  • Reply 5 of 71
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    The September time frame is what I had predicted. I think that Apple will also be getting them for free or at a very low price as they will surely be detailed and therefore getting great marketing for the 2000 or so that are used in Apple stores.



    Will they just be CC readers, or will they have IR scanners, and/or an additional battery for longer duration, and/or other capabilities?
  • Reply 6 of 71
    lilgto64lilgto64 Posts: 1,147member
    I do wonder how much data is actually on the device itself - or how well the remote wipe works - just thinking that should one of the devices go missing that is a potentially large security risk - unless it is tied to some back office app where all the data lives and it is just acting as a front end portal.
  • Reply 7 of 71
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by cameronj View Post


    File this one under 'duh, what took so long'



    I think the article clearly shows why it took so long. I wonder how long it will take for the market to be swarmed with new HW add-ons after iPhone oS 3.0 officially hits.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Chris_CA View Post


    Which is it? The touch or the iPhone or both?

    With the camera, the iPhone could be used as a UPC scanner but hte touch doe snot have one. Or is it something they are adding?

    Or would a scanner be one of the add-ons? Perhaps both will be unveiled?



    It makes me wonder if the iPod Touch will get a 3.2Mpx camera, which I here is what is needed for a decent barcode scanner.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nace33 View Post


    Now what am I going to joke with the Apple Store employees about????



    I never got this as ironic since Apple isn't in that business.
  • Reply 8 of 71
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,664member
    Several other posters in various other threads have made this point, but it's really starting to look like the really big news in the iPhone 3.0 OS isn't cut and paste or search or MMS, it's access to the dock connector.



    An explosion of devices that use the iPhone/Touch as web-enabled intelligent controllers with a sophisticated touch UI and a well established SDK could drive a huge increase in sales and redefine the whole idea of an "ecosystem."



    Imagine surround sound receivers with a dock connector that allows for, not just piping music through your system, but a much better programming/set-up UI than the typical few lines of cryptic LCD and a sea of tiny buttons. Leave volume control, station preset and input switching on the front panel for day to day use, put all the level setup, input assignment, surround mode, et al on the touch interface.



    After all, lots of hard to figure out buttons and inflexible UIs with small displays was the problem the iPhone was designed to address, and it's a problem that remains endemic in the CE industry. I could see all kinds of devices with just a few large, basic controls built in, the rest "outsourced" to the iPhone/Touch platform.



    Sure, it means an additional expense to get the functionality, but you can also deduct the price of UI/control hardware and software/WiFi/Bluetooth from the cost of the device. Plus, with a 30 million and growing installed user base, such devices could be marketed to people who already have an iPhone/Touch.
  • Reply 9 of 71
    About time. The whole purpose would be to build a front-end iPhone app for the POS system they already use -- there would not need to be any local data storage. Of course, the wireless connection would need to encrpyted, but the phone already has remote wipe for people in enterprise environments.



    The cam would be too problematic. I'm sure it will be an add-on device with a barcode scanner, card reader, and a mondo 5000 mAh battery or something crazy like that. A cool "gee-whiz" feature to show off the Bluetooth-Bonjour sharing would be to beam your receipt to you directly if you have an iPhone/Touch on you.
  • Reply 10 of 71
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nace33 View Post


    Now what am I going to joke with the Apple Store employees about????



    The long lines? The kids trashing the iPods on display? The prices? I joke...
  • Reply 11 of 71
    virgil-tb2virgil-tb2 Posts: 1,416member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by cuppingmaster View Post


    About time. The whole purpose would be to build a front-end iPhone app for the POS system they already use -- there would not need to be any local data storage. Of course, the wireless connection would need to encrpyted, but the phone already has remote wipe for people in enterprise environments.



    The cam would be too problematic. I'm sure it will be an add-on device with a barcode scanner, card reader, and a mondo 5000 mAh battery or something crazy like that. A cool "gee-whiz" feature to show off the Bluetooth-Bonjour sharing would be to beam your receipt to you directly if you have an iPhone/Touch on you.



    I'm not sure I agree about the camera.



    The current iPhone camera can read barcodes after a fashion and the iChat cams in the desktop computers are also 2MP and they work fine reading barcodes for Delicious Library and apps like that already. The new iPhone camera is supposed to be even better and it will be out in the same time frame.



    I also already get my receipt emailed to me already, which appears on my iPhone usually before I have even left the store depending on how fast or slow I exit.



    I think a simple app running on the soon to be released iPhone or iPod touch will already be capable of replacing the units they now use, the only question is will they take it further by having an add-on card reader or a specialised device like a tablet that they will then sell IMO.
  • Reply 12 of 71
    mac31mac31 Posts: 44member
    Thank goodness. Those darn things crash just about every single time I'm in there buying something. And that's pretty often.
  • Reply 13 of 71
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,671moderator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by cameronj View Post


    File this one under 'duh, what took so long'



    I agree, this should have been done a while ago.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipism


    I never got this as ironic since Apple isn't in that business.



    IMO, it doesn't look good when you are trying to sell iphones running your mobile OS but doing POS transactions on machines running your rival's mobile OS. I know it's not quite the same as the iphones aren't primarily POS devices but relying on your rival's products is never a good thing especially when it's such an important part of the business.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by lilgto64


    I do wonder how much data is actually on the device itself - or how well the remote wipe works - just thinking that should one of the devices go missing that is a potentially large security risk - unless it is tied to some back office app where all the data lives and it is just acting as a front end portal.



    They will probably do the sale encrypted over wifi. They'd have to or the transaction wouldn't be recorded if the customer went to say the checkout for an exchange.
  • Reply 14 of 71
    One time in my local Apple Store while purchasing something from a girl that looked like she was straight out of the Mickey Mouse Club, I said to her, "Running Windows Mobile on that?". I was just kidding, but she turned beet red, her lip started quivering, and I swear I thought she was going to cry.
  • Reply 15 of 71
    irelandireland Posts: 17,771member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post


    Cool deal. About time they ate their own lunch.



    Much better, I hate the positively grotesque 'dog food' phrase.



    On another note, I hope they think to use robust (industrial-type) iPhone cases for this.
  • Reply 16 of 71
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,664member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by 8CoreWhore View Post


    One time in my local Apple Store while purchasing something from a girl that looked like she was straight out of the Mickey Mouse Club, I said to her, "Running Windows Mobile on that?". I was just kidding, but she turned beet red, her lip started quivering, and I swear I thought she was going to cry.



    Sounds like she might have had issues beyond what tech the Apple Store might be using. Just sayin'.
  • Reply 17 of 71
    dluxdlux Posts: 666member
    It appears that the CC number has to be keyed in manually. I hope that a true card swipe device is incorporated, not only to speed things up but also to minimize keystroke error. Some cards have so much distracting artwork on them it's tough to read the numbers on a good day, and let's not discount operator error as well.



    But now that this is getting tested by Apple itself it's a safe bet that the entire package will find takers at other stores as well. Perhaps the tide will turn and the next Microsoft ad will find their precious $400 laptop getting rung up on an iPod Touch...
  • Reply 18 of 71
    panupanu Posts: 135member
    One advantage of the Windows Mobile devices in the Apple Store is that it gave Apple the opportunity to show that they weren't as afraid of Microsoft as Microsoft is of Apple. Very confident and professional! And by contrast and implication, it also made Microsoft look like the computer version of a used-car sales lot--an image Steve Ballmer strives for so effectively. When it didn't work, It worked out to a demonstration that the only Microsoft technology in the store didn't work. Every Windows Mobile PDA in an Apple Store was an ad for Apple!



    Of course, Apple does things right, and that means things take time. Now it will be easier to check out, but I'll have less fun laughing at Microsoft with the store employee.
  • Reply 19 of 71
    Finally. It's been embarrassing to be in an Apple story watching the poor geniuses use those clunky POS things with windoze running on them.
  • Reply 20 of 71
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nace33 View Post


    Now what am I going to joke with the Apple Store employees about????



    The porn that the brats who visit load on to the demo units? At an Apple store, I heard a girl (8 or so?) ask her dad "Daddy, what's that man doing to that woman with no clothes on?" as she was holding an iPod touch.



    Still, I find it ironic that they used Windows based devices. Glad they are going to their own products.
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