Next Stop in POS Evolution: The iPad-based POS Terminal

By Aila Staff

June 2, 2017

There’s no doubt about it, technology is driving disruption in retail. While the battle between rapidly expanding e-commerce businesses and traditional brick-and-mortar retailers dominates the headlines, change is afoot within the brick-and-mortar environment too. One microcosm of this change is the point-of-sale terminal, a market that is expected to more than double over the next decade, from $42b in 2015 to $113b by 2024. This change is due in large part to the adoption of new tablet-based POS-ready devices that are compact, rugged, powerful, portable, cost-efficient, and user-friendly. 

Out with the old, in with the new

Since the 1970s and the advent of computers, credit cards, and barcodes, fixed POS systems have remained essentially unchanged. They are characterized by clunky, expensive pieces of custom hardware based on a PC, with any number of peripherals such as a standalone CPU, a monitor, a keyboard, a wired barcode scanner, a printer, keypads for credit card processing, a cash drawer, and so on.

Although this system has gradually evolved to include more sophisticated peripheral devices like wireless Bluetooth scanners and ever-slimmer monitors, it has remained relatively static until just a few years ago.

Today, if you visit your local independent coffee shop, boutique, or, say, food truck, you’re likely to see something completely different: a tablet-based point-of-sale system. An enticing combination of factors has led to the rapid adoption of these devices in retail. These attributes include a compact form factor, portability, built-in wireless connectivity, cloud-based software that streamlines accounting and inventory management, NFC compatibility, and perhaps most importantly, an extremely palatable price point. And increasingly, these devices are based on an iOS platform.

However, many of the clunky legacy systems are still in place, particularly in larger enterprise operations where change occurs at a glacial pace. In fact, a May 2016 report indicated that 70% of the revenue in the point-of-sale industry came from fixed POS terminals as recently as 2015. (Incidentally, retailers today that still utilize some form of those legacy systems might well be the same ones who have been making recent headlines for disappointing earnings and store closures.)

The rise of the next-gen, iOS-based POS system

As the old tube TVs gave way to superior flat screen technology, bulky POS systems are gradually being phased out. And within this new world of tablet and mobile-enabled points of sale, iOS has emerged as a bold new option to replace legacy PC-based systems, offering durable, enterprise-caliber hardware and software at consumer-level pricing. Retailers are drawn to the minimalist form factor of iPad- and iPod-based devices, Apple’s user-friendly, hassle-free operating system, and the ever-expanding selection of turnkey retail software solutions.

Industry leaders like Revel Systems, Teamwork Retail, and Lightspeed have made significant gains in partnering with forward-thinking retailers of all sizes—from Tier 1 chains to mom-and-pop shops—to introduce iOS-based POS systems into the marketplace.

Now it’s time for the rest of the retail world to catch up.

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