Thanks to tech like Moblin and Android, netbooks, smartbooks, and smartphones are all the rage right now for consumers, but Linux is also showing up on the very sales counters where all of these devices are being bought.
While there's no denying the rise of Linux on these consumer systems, there's been a rather quiet but steady rise in Linux deployments on point-of-service (or point-of-sale) systems.
Retail systems are an interesting niche for Linux... one where the free operating system has historically done well. The demands of POS machines--24/7 availability and environments where they are sometimes exposed to large fluxuations in temperature and humidity--means they need an OS that is more stable than what Microsoft and Apple can traditionally offer.
Store operators have lately come to recognize Linux-based systems as being more suited to for what they need. Not to mention the traditional Linux benefits of being less pricy and more efficient in running on older machines. Combine all of these benefits, and the uptick in Linux POS devices is a sure thing.
It helps that Linux has some very good POS applications ready to go out of the box: Lemon POS, TuxShop, BananaPos, and OpenBravo POS, to name just a few. In fact it was Lemon POS that got my attention enough to check out the trend--one of our contributors was singing its praises in a planning session last week.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that Novell has a fully ready enterprise-level POS flavor in their product line: SUSE Linux Enterprise Point of Service. Novell has recently been talking up the fact that SLE POS has been deployed at Office Depot, National Vision, and Sherman-Williams.
Is Linux the magic bullet for POS machines? There may be a little work to go, but not much. If these POS applications can be easily connected to accounting databases for small- to medium-sized business owners, then the sky's the limit. We may already be at that point.
So when you're checking out that shiny new Linux device, take a look at the cash register screen: you may just see a familiar penguin looking back at you.