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It has been the buzz of the industry for years: tablets are taking over! But are they? There is no doubt that tablets are a growing segment of hardware sales but I think most of us expected a faster adoption rate. It seemed like the predictions were telling us that every POS terminal would be replaced by an iPad by this point. But in reality, there are a number of reasons why tablets are not always the best solutions for the end user.
The obvious answer is often the best answer. Many times, the form factor of the tablet is just not the right fit for the customer. Tablets may be smaller and lighter than a terminal but that does not mean they are convenient to carry around and store. To properly use for processing transactions, the tablet would need a barcode scanner (built in or paired via Bluetooth), MSR, and a printer. Those all take aware from the attractiveness of using a tablet in a POS scenario. And do not forget that most consumer grade devices will not withstand more than a few drops.
The first tablets that provided a strong case for use in the POS world were the iPad and various Android-based units. These were consumer devices that were being wrapped in cases and paired with peripherals to fit the needs of our customers. But at the core, they were not a good fit. Most end users have a Windows-based infrastructure and use software that is specific to their industry. This software will not run on other operating systems. End users were required to wait for the software developer to make an iOS or Android version or for a viable Windows tablet to enter the market.
Long Term Cost
Another factor was the cost of the tablets. While there was the up front cost, there was also concern about the long term cost. Since most of these devices were initially designed for consumer use, point of sale customers had concerns over the form factors changing too quickly, hardware failing/breaking and OS updates causing compatibility issues. All of these factors meant more money to maintain the mobile solution in their stores and restaurants.
So is that the end of it? Will tablets ever completely dominate the hardware sales in the POS category? Well, the story is far from over. Two key factors are continually evolving. First, software developers are converting their software. More and more developers are making their software operate on Windows, Android and iOS so they can reach a wider customer base and give the end user more hardware options. Second, there are more hardware options available. While Apple still only provides a consumer style device, other hardware vendors are providing solutions for both Windows and Android. Many of these are purpose built devices for our industry and include MSRs and barcode scanner. They are rugged to withstand he daily use in a retail or restaurant. For the POS reseller, it is imperative to stay on top of the latest news so you can quickly adopt your product offerings to include the latest in both hardware and software.
Co-contributor: Joe Easton