IBM, Microsoft Partner on POS Solution

IBM will install the Windows Embedded operating system into its point-of-sale devices.

IBM will offer Windows Embedded for Point of Service as a pre-installed operating system option for its IBM AnyPlace kiosk, SelfCheckout and SurePOS 700, 500 and 300 point-of-sale products.

Juhi Jotwani, director of marketing strategy for retail store solutions for IBM, said the collaboration between IBM and Microsoft, announced Feb. 26, is a response to diverse application demands that drive different operating system needs for IBM retail clients.

"Windows is a high area of priority for our customers," Jotwani said. "We looked at Windows-based applications and decided that Windows Embedded was a good platform of choice."

In particular, Jotwani said Windows Embedded offers stability and runs for a long period of time. In addition, she said being able to get their operating system and drivers from a single company was a benefit to retailers.

"When retailers invest in a POS system, it's mission-critical," she said. "They have to take their money through it, so it has to be up and running all the time. A retailer's needs for a POS are unique. It needs to run for seven to 10 years."

IBM's Store Integration Framework and Retail Integration Framework middleware layers will also both plug into Windows Embedded, Jotwani said.

"IBM is focused on providing a middleware layer that allows retailers to build a services-oriented architecture," she said.

Ilya Bukshteyn, director of marketing of Windows Embedded for Microsoft, said that while IBM retail POS customers always had the option of using a Microsoft operating system, the pre-configured solution helps them better manage their operations with seamless interoperability between new and existing retail solutions.

"This announcement is all part of Microsoft and IBM's continuing effort to focus on the needs of clients to help them deliver a smart, connected, service-oriented experience to consumers, while at the same time driving down costs through improved efficiencies," Bukshteyn said.

Rob Garf, an analyst with AMR Research, used a football analogy in describing the partnership between IBM and Microsoft, which are more typically competitors.

"Next I'm expecting to see [coaches] Eric Mangini of the New York Jets and Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots hugging at the 50-yard line," Garf said. "You don't necessarily see much co-opetition with IBM and Microsoft."

While unusual, Garf said the deal makes sense for both parties. "For IBM, it gives their hardware prospects and clients more choice for their operating system," he said. "For Microsoft, given the leadership role IBM plays in hardware, it provides a great channel. Their go-to-market strategy is mostly through channel partners. It's a win-win."

Retailers can also benefit from the deal, Garf said. "From a retail perspective, especially when dealing with hundreds or thousands of stores multiplied by the amount of devices in each store, you want simplicity and a hardened technology that won't break," he said. "[Windows Embedded-based POS offers] resiliency and simplicity, and being a standards-based technology makes it easier to deploy. From a total cost of ownership standpoint, it makes sense for retailers as well."

Garf said the partnership demonstrates the open nature of both technologies. "It underlines what both companies have been talking about for a while - standards-based open technology," he said.