If you are a small business owner and you are currently shopping for a POS system for your business, you have undoubtedly come across countless ads and blog posts about how iPad and Android tablet POS systems are revolutionizing the industry. Don’t get me wrong, its a great idea. In fact I myself have done a lot of research into offering it to our customers. But in reality, they are just not that practical. And there are far fewer people actually interested in them then you would expect.
The biggest problem is that the POS applications for tablets are still in their infancy. It takes years to develop a well featured point of sale software. Most tablet POS apps are basic order entry and that’s it. I’ve heard horror story after horror story from business owners that were completely caught of guard by the lack of features offered by a certain popular iPad POS system. They spent about the same amount of money for a iPad POS system that they would have spent on a standard Windows based touch POS system. If you have ever used a true point of sale software that is built for your particular business you will quickly find that most tablet based POS softwares lack many of the most common things you would see in a traditional POS software application.
Another major problem is there is really not much tablet compatible POS hardware to choose from. Wifi POS printers have been around for a long time but try and find a standard POS receipt printer with bluetooth capability. At the time of this writing you will find one. Its made by Starmicroncis. Tablets don’t do common serial or parallel connection and most don’t do USB. They do however use bluetooth. Now you will find quite a few portable (expensive) bluetooth POS printers but they are intended to be mobile and use very small amounts of paper and the paper size is not a standard POS receipt size.
The merchant account factor. Most popular iPad Android POS apps are funded or tied to specific merchant service providers. By purchasing this new great tablet POS system with its fancy looking app you are locking yourself into only one merchant to process credit cards with. And usually whatever rate they charge.
Portability? How portable are they really. If your new tablet POS system is sitting on a counter you would probably be better of with a standard POS system. I will never forget the time we walked into one of our large, high volume bar/restaurant customers to demo an iPad running their POS application. We began by showing it to one of their top selling cocktail waitresses. When we showed her this cool new technology she laughed and said “What do you want me to do with? Wear it around my neck?” At that point we realized the only real world use for it in that particular restaurant was maybe for a manger to carry around for voids\comps or to see open tables. There are some applications where it would be useful. One of our clients uses it at their hostess stand to view table status. I suppose in a low volume restaurant a tablet POS system would be a little more manageable. Other good applications for a tablet POS system would be in the mobile food or service industry. Mobile kitchens are becoming quite popular and a small tablet would work great in that setting.
Despite everything that you have read here, there is a shining light in the future. Hardware and software providers will eventually catch up with cost effective real world products for iOS and Android. They are still quite far off though. But the brightest light in the near future for tablet based POS systems is the coming onslaught of Windows 8 Intel x86 (not Windows RT) based tablets. These Windows 8 based tablets are already fully capable of handling almost all existing POS software and hardware. They use the same drivers and technology that the point of sale industry has been using for years and they can also handle the newer technology like bluetooth, internet printing and ad-hoc WiFi. In most cases they are capable of using any merchant processing just like a traditional POS system.
So if your looking at getting an iPad POS system, please keep what you have read here in mind. Stop and think to yourself, “Is this going to be practical for my business or is it just cool looking?” Do your research and Don’t believe the hype.