2018: The Year of the Disrupted Disruptor
Well it’s been 5+ years since we started hearing about the “Tablet Disruptors”, and for all the hype and countless gushing articles surrounding the topic, common sense is finally starting to win out. Venture Capital has begun to realize that the 3 geeks that created an app that could kinda sorta replace a legit point of sale system are in no way qualified to run a company with large aspirations, as is evidenced by Revel’s management team “stepping down” to go pursue other opportunities. There is also a rumor circulating around our industry that I’ve heard from multiple sources that Revel only has 6 months of money left, and then things start to implode. Imagine blowing over $150MM in seven years and having so little to show for it. Whoever gave those guys a blank check should be fired!
But the purpose of this article isn’t to revel in the pending demise of an overhyped competitor; the purpose here is to explain why, beyond poor management, all of the iOS based tablet POS systems are doomed. When we developed our Mobile POS app several years back, we hedged our bet on what operating system would win out and did a cross-platform app that runs on both iOS and Android. The thinking was that with many consumers Apple is like a religion and they don’t want to hear about an Android tablet. You don’t see Android users camping out overnight to get the next Samsung Galaxy. But the long term reality is that Android is free, and most hardware manufacturers have embraced it for this reason alone. Also, just like in the days of the IBM PC versus the Apple Mac, IBM opened its specifications to the world which allowed for lots of 3rd party innovations while Apple was a closed system that ultimately stifled innovation. 20 year ago if you wanted a printer for your PC, you could choose from 15 different brands, all competing for your business. If you wanted a printer for your Apple Mac, your only option was an Apple printer.
Just to give you a modern parallel, here are your POS hardware options by Operating System:
|Clover Mobile, Clover Flex, ELO I-Series, ELO PayPoint, PAX A920 and Numerous 15″ All-in-One POS Terminals. If you don’t like any of these options (almost all of which include integrated EMV) you can source just about anything Android you can dream up from China directly.||iPad Mini, iPad and the Great Big iPad. EMV/payment capabilities are not included and are very pricey.|
I saw a recent bit of writing by an iPad POS company comparing themselves (favorably, of course) to a similar product that runs on Android. I had to laugh, because of all the questionable points they made there is no escaping the reality that Android gives you FAR more hardware options. Game over! Want EMV for your tablet POS system? On Android there are lots of options coming out every day. For iOS you have two options: Wait for Infinite Peripherals to roll something out that costs almost as much as the iPad or use a Bluetooth solution that needs re-paired constantly. For the record, we did a Bluetooth payment option at one point and it got thrown out of the customer’s location because the connection constantly dropped, making it a support nightmare in addition to being unreliable.
Above Left: iPad POS system in one of its more common roles. Above Right: POS system that commonly replaces the iPad POS, and is cheaper, faster and more reliable.
So in summary, the day is finally here when these tablet science projects need to figure out how to turn a profit or go extinct. For the record, I don’t think these companies will go away; they’ll simply have their assets purchased by a credit card ISO and probably rebrand as something else to escape their reputations for low quality software and lousy support. The traditional VAR/ISV communities have weathered the “Disruptor” storm, although the business landscape has changed forever. Where payment processing used to be an upsell that many ISVs and VARs didn’t embrace, payments and POS are now inseparable. And any VAR/ISV who still hasn’t embraced that fact will suffer the same fate as the “Tablet Disruptors”; just a footnote in POS history that we’ll all be discussing using terms like “Remember those guys?” 10 years from now.