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By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2002-10-07 Print this article Print

: Cashing In on Linux"> This is borne out by Regal executives, who said they chose Linux because it is an open, affordable operating system that gives them a lower cost and relative ease of programming with the Java projects they already have in place.

Regal unit Regal Cinemas, which was previously running old electronic cash registers that were not tied to the system or to the back end, is now using 2,400 IBM SurePOS 500 systems running Red Hat Linux at concession stands, which are linked to an IBM eServer iSeries server at its headquarters, in Knoxville, Tenn.

Regal is also testing a new, in-theater, Linux-based kiosk that enables movie patrons to buy tickets or retrieve tickets purchased from an online service.

For its part, Casas Bahia, the largest nonfood retailer in Brazil, is moving to more than 1,500 IBM 4694-207 and 205 POS systems running Red Hat Linux in its 320 stores. The company was previously running a DOS system but said it believed this lacked an upgrade path, was difficult to grow and had outdated user interfaces.

The POS screen is also used to display advertisements, but the DOS system did not have the necessary resources to update the screen images. The company also wanted a system that would allow them to implement all POS functions, officials said.

Linux also gives Casas Bahias developers the possibility of using an agent made by IBMs Tivoli division in the POS systems to optimize the management and software distribution, company officials said.

Despite the promise of this cost savings, Linux-based POS systems have yet to gain widespread use. Although the number of such devices running Linux grew 80 percent last year, according to IHL Consulting Group, the retail industry market research company earlier had forecast 300 to 400 percent growth. Officials at the Franklin, Tenn., company blamed the results on changes of heart at Musicland Group Inc. and Home Depot Inc., both of which had planned Linux POS deployments but changed course.

IHL reported that various Windows versions were installed on some 69 percent of total POS terminals sold last year, while Linux accounted for 2 percent.

But IHL does see a future for Linux.

"We expect to see more use of Linux in [the drugstore] segment and in the pharmacies of larger supermarket chains because of the easy interaction with many of the more popular pharmacy applications that run on Sun [Microsystems Inc.]s Solaris and SCO-Unix," said a recent report from the company.

In addition, the age of many POS systems means that many are coming to the end of their usable lives.

"Our existing point-of-sale database did a good job for many years, but our needs have grown," Papa Johns Foster said in the report.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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