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Mobile apps increasingly replacing cash registers

Cash registers sit idle in Macy's flagship store January 8, 2009 in New York City.

Jeremy Hobson: If you're planning on buying something with your credit card today, you might notice something different. Instead of the clerk processing your transaction with a traditional point-of-sale device -- like a cash register -- she might use a mobile device like an iPad. That trend means there are a lot of people making point-of-sale apps to run those transactions.

But as Stephen Nessen reports, the big players in the industry aren't going down without a fight.


Stephen Nessen: Three years ago Brooklyn businessman Jason Richelson was running two wine shops and a grocery store when all of his cash register servers went down at the same time.

Jason Richelson: So, I went online and I searched for a cloud point-of-sale. And guess what? I didn't find any.

So, Richelson created a complete point-of-sale system that runs on a tablet computer. His app was accepted by Apple in August, and now more than 50 other retailers around the country are using it. Other mobile point-of-sale apps have also been developed.

Joe Finizio: Do I see them stealing marketplace? If their product is good enough, potentially they can.

That's Joe Finizio. He tracks retail technology as the head of the group Retailers Solutions Providers Association.

Finizio: However, the larger players and the traditional players in the marketplace -- they're not the big players by chance.

Finizio says mobile apps still make up less than 1 percent of the $60 billion point-of-sale industry.

Finizio: Are the applications that are running on an iPad or an Android tablet hurting the other folks? Hell no. 

Big players include IBM, and Micros.

Finizio: In fact it's igniting them to create more applications for the customers and the retailers.

Dave Hoffman is the director of consumer solutions at Micros, which runs point-of-sale systems in a third of all restaurants in the U.S. He's part of a recently created department tasked with creating mobile apps.

Dave Hoffman: I don't know that we're necessarily playing catch up. The Micros software that we have that we're selling today -- it's roots go back to the late 70s and early 80s, and the evolution of this software is not something that starts in a day's time and all of a sudden has all the features you need.

Right now, Micros is piloting its mobile apps in restaurants in the company's hometown of Columbia, Md.

In New York, I'm Stephen Nessen for Marketplace.

About the author

Stephen Nessen is a contributor for Marketplace.

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