Microsoft Surface Minds the Store, Forges Mobile Payment Partnerships

New partnerships help Microsoft compete with Apple's iPad in the burgeoning mobile point-of-sale market.

Microsoft Surface

Surface is ready for point-of-sale (POS) duty, according to Microsoft.

During the National Retail Federation's (NRF) conference in New York City, Microsoft announced two new Designed for Surface partners that are bringing their mobile payment technologies to the company's line of Windows tablets. The companies "offer suites of hardware, software and gateway solutions for secure online and mobile transactions for retail," announced Cyril Belikoff, a Microsoft Surface director in a company blog post.

Payments technology provider AnywhereCommerce has joined the Designed for Surface third-party development program. The partnership will enable retailers to "take advantage of a suite of secure and flexible mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) solutions that are integrated into a single Surface solution for their stores," Belikoff wrote. AnywhereCommerce's product line includes the Walker credit card reader that plugs into mobile devices.

Also new to the program is MagTek, a Seal Beach, Calif.-based provider of card readers and authenticators. Belikoff revealed that MagTek will work with Microsoft "to develop mobile readers for EMV and magnetic stripe cards that support the Surface tablet." The firm's existing mobile portfolio, including the uDynamo, BulleT and DynaPro Mini readers, as well as the DynaPro and Dynamag countertop readers "will ultimately become a part of this Surface retail solution," he added.

AnywhereCommerce and MagTek build on a growing roster of companies that offer Surface POS products. Belikoff noted that his group is currently "working with companies like AmorActive, Anthro and Incipio to create charging carts, fixed and mobile POS casings and cases."

In a veiled reference, Microsoft suggested that its business-oriented ecosystem of Surface hardware and software is ready to take on Apple's iPad, which is becoming a familiar site at retail establishments, thanks to mobile payment and POS companies like Square. "Tablets are being used by retailers to allow for 'assisted selling' and mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) solutions that help make employees lives easier and improve the customer experience," stated Belikoff.

However, enlisting consumer-grade platforms for these functions has its drawbacks, he argued. "Many [retailers] are realizing that force-fitting consumer devices for use in the retail setting can create unanticipated challenges requiring the purchase of additional IT tools to manage the devices, or re-building existing line-of-business (LOB) applications for the new operating systems," wrote Belikoff.

The new partnerships are part of Microsoft's broader push into retailing IT.

Also during the NRF conference, the software giant announced an expanded partnership with IBM, a major provider of IT systems for the retail industry. The companies are teaming up on retail-focused IT systems based on Dynamics AX 2012 R3, Microsoft's forthcoming edition of its flagship enterprise resource planning (ERP) offering.

The companies expect their efforts to culminate in products based on Dynamics AX 2012 R3's enhanced functionality and "IBM's proven global leadership in delivering integrated, enterprise retail solutions," Microsoft said in a statement. Brian Minnix, partner, Worldwide Retail Competency Center Lead, IBM, said the deal "will deliver innovative technology solutions that will help retailers seamlessly connect to their customers while delivering an exceptional brand experience."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...