Gap Test Drives Apple's iPhone Point-of-Sale System

Gap Test Drives Apple's iPhone Point-of-Sale System
Gap Test Drives Apple's iPhone Point-of-Sale System

Like many other Apple (AAPL) customers, I've admired the sleek point-of-sale system that allowed the company's employees to wirelessly run credit card transactions on iPhones or iPod Touch devices from anywhere in the store. It was a huge improvement over Apple's initial POS systems, which involved clunky handhelds running operating systems from other companies that shall remain nameless. But on a recent trip to an Apple Store, I told the employee at checkout: "You guys should really sell your POS system to other companies."

Little did I know. Apple has put its POS system, called EasyPay, into trials as a third-party, stand-alone POS running on Apple devices. According to 9-to-5 Mac, the first customer is Gap (GPS) and its subsidiary Old Navy. The rollout is under way on a very limited basis, but should the experiment gain momentum, it could be a significant win for Apple in a number of ways.

A Trojan Horse?

First, the POS market is huge. Sales of POS units for retailer applications alone exceed $6 billion per year worldwide, according to the IHL Group. That's not counting the hospitality industry nor other sectors that use POS technology, which add additional billions to the potential market. Then there's the self-checkout market, another rapidly growing sector that could be revolutionized by applications on smartphones or media tablets.

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All told, POS systems could develop into a fat new business line for Apple, with loads of recurrent sales as retailers restock iPhone or iPod Touch POS handsets to accommodate the standard levels of breakage, theft and wear and tear. Even better, unreliable POS systems have been a source of aggravation for retailers, which gives Apple a strong opportunity to make an impression with crash-proof units.

Second, POS could be a very interesting Trojan horse for Apple to get into large enterprise accounts. Retailers buy a whole lot of computers, both laptops and desktops, and some of the largest companies in the country are retailers: Think Walmart (WMT) and Target (TGT), among others.

Then, consider the potential for an enterprise halo effect. Consumers hooked on iPods and iPhones jacked up Apple's computer market share. In a similar way, Apple's penetration into POS markets could convince corporate info-tech managers impressed with the EasyPay system to go Mac. Then again, Windows POS is extremely popular and a worthy opponent in the business. Powered by a super-locked-down version of Microsoft's (MSFT) software, Windows POS has been gaining market share over the past decade.

One way or another, keep your eyes peeled for more iPhone POS checkout systems coming to stores near you.

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