October 4, 2001

Open Source companies partner on retail sales software suite

Author: JT Smith

- By Grant Gross -

Two companies working on Open Source finance software are working together with hopes of releasing a point-of-sale suite next spring that will compete with proprietary retail sales systems.

Global Retail Technology and Linux Developers Group issued a press release Wednesday describing their OpenCheckout project, a suite of retail sales management software that ranges from touch-screen cash register software to back-end report-generating and bank deposit software.

Bill Gribble, CEO of Linux Developers Group, the two companies are aiming for a pilot program with a couple of stores in the first quarter of 2002 to roll out the software suite, in hopes that the suite will catch on with more stores during the first half of 2002. "Nobody in the retail world would even THINK about installing new software between now and Jan 7," he says in an email to NewsForge. "There won't be a 'boxed release' of OpenCheckout in the
foreseeable future; rather, we are working directly with retail clients and channel partners to provide complete solutions including software, hardware, and training."

This won't be the first Open Source point-of-sale (POS) initiative, as such retail giants as The Home Depot and Burlington Coat Factory have converted to Linux-based POS systems. But Gribble says the market, still dominated by proprietary vendors, is ripe for more Open Source products.

"There are a few closed-source software vendors, and hardware vendors
with closed-source products, that have a stranglehold on the POS market
right now," he says. " The prices are high and the quality of the software is not
so good. That's what most retailers are facing when they go to purchase
a system: high costs of startup, high costs of ownership, limited
flexibility ...

"OpenCheckout provides retailers with a way to spend their money on making the software fit their business rather than the other way around," he continues. "There aren't any per-seat license fees for either the POS software or the operating system it runs on, which means they get a better solution for their money. And unlike some of the other
Linux-based POS systems, it runs on generic hardware with generic POS peripherals."

The partnership between Gribble's company, the primary sponsor of GnuCash personal finance project, and Mercator Point of Sale developer Global Retail Technology is what Gibble calls a "perfect match."

Global Retail Technology's Mercator will be the Java GUI for OpenCheckout; Gribble and Mercator author Quentin Olson found the two companies had much in common. "We are always looking for an opportunity to extend the GnuCash technology ... into
vertical and business applications," Gribble says. "[Olson] has lots of contacts and experience in the retail software world but needed some accounting and cash management infrastructure to make a complete system. That's what the joint venture is doing."

What Gribble calls OpenCheckout's back office component will reconcile the cash
and other media in the drawer with the transactions recorded during the
day; prepare financial reports of activity; prepare daily summary information for a deposit slip; and handle configuration of the layout of the POS screen, manages employee records and inventory. Some screenshots of Mercator, based on the JavaPOSretail peripheral standard, are available at the OpenCheckout site.

With OpenCheckout, Gribble says, the front- and back-office pieces can be either
on the same machine or on separate machines connected by a network. "One
standard approach is to have the back office system running on a manager's machine, so that during the course of the day the manager can monitor sales and so on," he says.


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