Daniel Eran Dilger
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Apple stores to ditch Windows EasyPay systems for iPhone 3.0


Prince McLean, AppleInsider

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.

AppleInsider | Apple stores to ditch Windows EasyPay systems for iPhone 3.0
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.

  • http://www.jphotog.com leicaman

    Funny, the wrong words come into my mind when reading the acronym POS. It sure makes me think of Windows.

  • gus2000


  • http://coderad.net StrictNon-Conformist

    For the life of me, I have no clue why Apple didn’t make this possible via WiFi LONG ago, even if it involved buying some third party’s solution, developed for the iPhone/iPod Touch: it simply puzzled the crap out of me that shortly after the iPhone was released that they weren’t using it for this, as Bluetooth really isn’t required if you have a centralized system to submit transactions to that is interfaced via TCPIP. That, and it’s great to eat your own dog food for advertising ;)

  • http://www.ccsgraphic.com CCS

    @StrictNon-Conformist: Credit card readers over WiFi?

    I think it’s great that Apple is finally moving to the cooler product for mobile checkout. I hope any credit card reader they use looks just as svelte. ;-)

  • http://coderad.net StrictNon-Conformist

    @CCS: what are they currently using for their credit card POS devices now? IF there’s a fear that the current wiFi isn’t up to snuff for security with the default encryption (which seems reasonable enough to fear, all considering) why not add yet another layer of encryption? Seriously, Bluetooth only has the theoretical advantage of it having a much lower transmission range, but if the Apple store I’ve visited is any indication, 1.) Bluetooth may not have the needed range (it’s just large enough to possibly matter) and 2.) There’s enough people in there at any one time that if they had the proper device, they could listen in on that as well: there’s no such thing as the unhackable wireless transmission medium at this time in production, even if something that’s supposed to be unhackable exists in research labs, say, using quantum entanglement.