Microsoft Makes Progress in

By Evan Schuman  |  Posted 2006-03-08 Print this article Print

Retail POS market"> The retail POS market has sharply changed in the last two years since Microsofts entry with WEPOS, said Greg Buzek, president of the IHL Consulting Group. In its latest market study, which was published in January, Windows Embedded POS was being "seriously considered" by 51 percent of the surveyed retailers. "WEPOS went from zero two years ago to 51 percent now."
While pointing out that the survey allowed multiple answers of what retailers were seriously considering, Buzek still said that he found the results significant. Much of that interest was coming from retailers who are using MS-DOS, Windows XP Pro, Linux or IBM 4690.
"A lot of [WEPOS market-share] is coming from people who used to use DOS. But a big portion is also coming from Linux and 4690," Buzek said. Whats behind the move? Its much less functionality than pure economics, Buzek said. "While the enhancements and the variety of equipment helps, the real significance and reason why the retailers are so interested is the drop in the license cost for WEPOS [compared with] Windows XP," he said. "XP Pro costs about $205 per terminal for a new license. WEPOS is priced at $75 or less, depending on the volume involved." "WEPOS has brought the price down to roughly parity with Linux," Buzek said. "It has brought the price down to such a point that Windows is competitive from a price and security perspective." Buzek said "many retail IT managers think, Gosh, if I do Linux then I dont have any licensing costs, but they do have much service costs. They have more internal support costs or they have to hire outside." Paula Rosenblum, who tracks retail technology issues for the Aberdeen Group, agreed that Microsofts move does strengthen their TCO position. "The big deal here is that they can support legacy devices. Point of sale is so expensive when you deal with the store multiplier," Rosenblum said. "This helps them avoid having to buy pieces and parts. By keeping legacy peripherals longer, you can postpone purchases. This way, you can change out pieces and not have to change out every single one." That does strengthen Microsofts ease-of-use argument against Linux, although it doesnt eliminate it. "This doesnt mean that a clever Linux programmer couldnt" write programs to do the same thing that Microsoft has, Rosenblum said. To read about how better Linux sales arent enough to halt Novells slide, please click here. Microsofts rapid move into a significant retail market-share surprised Rosenblum, she said. "If you would have asked me four years ago whether Windows would have even been part of the POS choice, I would have said probably not" because "Linux is so inexpensive." "Microsoft has done an excellent job at neutralizing that argument. Theyve opted for volume instead of high prices. They are going after market-share," she said. "Retailers on the whole are a rather conservative lot, when all is said and done. Windows has turned out to be the more conservative choice," Rosenblum said. "Windows has succeeded as being the perceived safer choice." That said, she said that TCO is too amorphous a statistic to be objectively helpful. Said Rosenblum: "TCO is such a fuzzy number. Its like MIPS [millions of instructions per second] used to be. You cant prove the whole story with it." Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman can be reached at Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on technologys impact on retail.

Evan Schuman is the editor of's Retail industry center. He has covered retail technology issues since 1988 for Ziff-Davis, CMP Media, IDG, Penton, Lebhar-Friedman, VNU, BusinessWeek, Business 2.0 and United Press International, among others. He can be reached by e-mail at

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