Apple Retail Stores: Buh-Bye WindowsCE, Hello iPod touch!

Looks like the rumors were true and Apple is finally set to replace the aging, WindowsCE + stylus based EasyPay point-of-sale devices used by the retail store staff with sexy new credit card reading, barcode scanning iPod touches. Apple will be using the same accessory access APIs supplied to developers in the iPhone 3.0 SDK.

AppleInsider reports that a trial is now being run at the closest Apple Store to the Cupertino Headquarters, the Valley Fair Mall in Santa Clara, but hopefully the rest of Apple Retail will be able to enjoy the cool new gadgets sometime in the near future as well.

IFOAppleStore confirms the switch to iPod touch EasyPay, and adds that Apple will also be ditching the color-coded shirts used to distinguish different types of staff. (Not because Microsoft iCloned them but because they were ultimately more confusing than helpful to customers).

[Small print: The above video is of Apple Store staff cheering for a new store opening, not for their new iPod touch EasyPay systems]

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Apple Retail Stores: Buh-Bye WindowsCE, Hello iPod touch!

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They've been using touches for Genius appointments and inventory from what I've seen, not for scanning and credit card processing. Now with 3.0 and the add-ons, they can go all-in...

I doubt there would be any technical security issue, but there might be some additional social security issues for the store itself. After all, those CE devices have the twin retail advantages of being impossible for a customer to confuse with Apple products and unusable/unsalable for any thief. :)
On the other hand, even with a screen reader attachment, an unattended iPod touch POS might look like a demo unit to play with for a customer, or a new music player/quick profit for somebody with sticky fingers. Certainly not something to cause Apple panic, but the very desirability of an iPod touch means they have to think those aspects through.
More interesting is if the POS solution is Apple-created or third party, and, after the bugs and kinks are worked out of the system, if Apple/that third party would sell this as a solution for retailers.

It was stupid how Microsoft copied Apple with the store and cheering loudly when the store opened and people walked in, but it's just as stupid that Apple employees do it... is this a cult or something?

I did have a nice little chuckle when the Apple guy brought out the WinCE POS deal to ring up my iPhone purchase. Especially since I was coming over from a WinMo phone.

It's about time! It's crazy that Apple has been using WinMo hardware for completing sales in their stores.

I was at the Apple Store in Ann Arbor, MI earlier today and they said that they'd switch in three weeks. The guy that I talked to said that the hardware was custom designed and currently includes some sort of stylus for customer to sign their name. He said that they expected to ditch the stylus almost immediately when people sign with their fingers instead.

The exit of WinCE devices from Apple Stores can't come a moment too soon. They were ugly, for one. But it's hard to argue with Apple's success in retail. Beating the revenue per square foot of high-margin outfits like Tiffany's? Regularly? Get out of town!
The kind of high-end storefront Apple has been rolling out in New York, Beijing, and the like begs the question how commodity vendors like Dell (and by extension, Microsoft, which requires bargain-basement commodity boxes produced at thin margins by efficient OEMs in order to make Microsoft's pre-installed products seem inexpensive) hope to make money copying Apple's retail behavior. High-rent retail locations don't make sense for commodity products, and taking on support overhead works against MSFT's historical margins strategy (to push support to OEMs to retain maximum profit). Given that MSFT's new OS isn't working against Apple's apparent long-term trend toward higher penetration, and Apple's component purchasing power places it in a position from which competitors have a hard time profitably chasing Apple's various products, it seems that a "me-too" retail strategy will either be vastly overpriced for its delivered profit or will be a transparent effort to dress up a trailer park like a community of established brownstones.
I predict both Dell and Microsoft will find retail an inefficient way to reclaim high-margin share from Apple. I suspect Apple will continue to hold and expand high-margin business despite effort to compete on price.