|The Changing Face of the Retail World|
The IBM 4690 Operating System has dominated the retail environment with a reputation for stability. At the same time, tremendous excitement has been generated by a number of other strong POS product providers, each offering new value, options, and often lower prices to retailers around the world. Still, the number of retailers who continue to rely on their IBM 4690 environment is substantial. According to IHL Consulting Group's 2003 POS market study, 4690 OS is currently installed in 75% of the Tier 1 retailers with front-end checkouts—supermarkets, drug stores, super centers, warehouse clubs, and mass merchants.
The large number of new POS enabled devices and peripherals, new application solutions that afford greater customer interaction, and the emergence of new back-end retail applications—most of which rely on operating systems other than 4690 OS—virtually guarantee some change in the amount of IBM equipment and application solutions that most retailers will be using in the future. Retailers long for a plug-and-play world, but few are optimistic about across-the-board standards emergence and compliance in the near future.
Even if a plug-and-play world truly existed for POS hardware, retailers would still be faced with recreating their internal software—trying to duplicate the function of the IBM POS applications and the many customized extensions added over the years. For most retailers, unhooking from that customized business logic also means reworking nearly every back-end enterprise application. Not a pretty picture, as those who have investigated the rip and replace approach have discovered.
By the same token, standing still or being confined to IBM-only solutions isn't going to hold off the competition. The good news many retailers have discovered is that they can move ahead and integrate new application solutions while continuing to take advantage of their existing highly customized business logic. This approach (Figure 1) helps them avoid the confusion that results when application solutions with independent business logic are deployed. An integrated approach to implementing application solutions not only has internal advantages but also is key to providing a consistent shopping experience to customers across the retailer's growing variety of touch points.
The same trusted business logic that drives existing 4690 POS terminals can serve as the base for new application solutions.