When their wait in line at a coffee shop brings them face to face with a sleek iPad instead of a clunky cash register, many consumers still feel a jolt of, "Wow, that's cool."
But as the "it factor" fades, does the iPad have what it takes to become an enduring part of the retail scene? Informed opinions remain divided.
Count Motley Fool financial analyst Jeremy Bowman among those skeptical that iPads have staying power as point of sale systems (1). He noted that iPad sales fell every quarter of 2014, for a total dive of 15 percent during the year. While he acknowledged the success of the iPad as a restaurant POS, he forecasted a bigger consumer market as bad news for iPads and other tablets.
Some of the skepticism comes from simple physics. How can an elegant machine like the iPad take the daily indignities of use in a high-traffic retail environment? After all, the iPad screen can spider after drops of a few feet on to soft dirt (2).
On the opposite bench sits ZDNet writer Larry Dignan. While he shares pessimism about the iPad as a consumer device, he offers reasons to believe it will carve out a niche as a business solution (3).
"The most innovative uses of the iPad are seen in the field with businesses both large and small," Dignan wrote. "The iPad is becoming a cash register and card reader of choice."
Small business owners are finding lots of persuasive reasons to switch from traditional POS systems, specifically green ones. Entrepreneur Magazine interviewed cafe owner Shannon Seip, who estimated she saved $10,000 by choosing an iPad-based system (4). Her savings are in line with estimates that put the startup cost of closed-network systems between $3,000 and $50,000. Web-based POS systems, including ones utilizing iPads, can be up and working for less than $1,000.
So which is it - fad or future?
Whatever analysts might think, it's clear POS software providers are betting big on the iPad. Browse any list of POS systems and you will see how widely the hardware is supported. Exact numbers are hard to confirm, but in one wide-ranging Business News Daily review of 2015 POS systems, at least 16 of the 50 were either designed for or could be used with the iPad.
So small business owners can be secure that, for the foreseeable future, iPad systems will have plenty of support and innovation behind them. However, there's no denying they have a ways to catch up when it comes to the commercial-grade needs of business owners.