Friday, March 21, 2014
As the April 8, 2014, end date approaches for Microsoft Corp. tech support for the Windows XP operating system, it can be seen as a reason to panic, or to prosper. XP-based ATMs, which dominate the market, as well as POS systems that run on XP, will undoubtedly experience problems when they become infected with malware and receive no patches from Microsoft to remedy the situation. But the deadline can also be seen as a selling opportunity focused on merchants ready to cut ties with legacy systems and adopt spiffy new tablet POSs.
San Francisco-based tablet POS provider Revel Systems noted that the opportunity is two-pronged. First, merchants want tablet POS systems because they are more user friendly and aesthetically pleasing than the standard, clunky and "dumb" terminals that run on XP. Second, XP users will suddenly be out of compliance with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) once April 8 rolls around.
"Businesses electing to stay on Windows XP will no longer be PCI compliant and will leave themselves and their customers vulnerable to security and malware threats," Revel said.
With XP operating on its last batch of patches and upgrades (Service Pack 3), Microsoft admitted that fraud rose 66 percent two years after it ended support for XP Service Pack 2. Add to that a metric, provided by Revel via security specialist Trustwave, that the percentage of XP-based POS terminals operating in the marketplace at over 30 percent, and the potential compliance nightmare becomes clear.
For Revel, the appeal of Apple Inc.'s iOS-based tablet POS systems, which are Revel's specialty, is reflected in sleek, forward-looking design and security. "Everyone wants a tablet point of sale," said Chris Ciabbara, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Revel. "Everyone knows it's the future. People don't want this old legacy-looking system. They just spent a million dollars on their store. They don't want an eyesore. They want something good looking and, of course, functional."
According to Ciabarra, what truly separates Apple tablets from competitors is its malware impermeability because of the software architecture, which only allows one app to be open on a mobile device at a time. "So if you open up an app, it cannot talk to another app," he said. "And nothing else is running at the same time. So it is impossible for one app to steal information from another. That's why it is impossible for malware to happen on the iOS operating system. That's the beauty of it."
Revel has implemented a campaign involving fliers and social media to raise awareness among merchants about the XP deadline and the value of upgrading POS systems to Apple tablets. That task seems to be a daunting one.
Evolve IP LLC released a report that said of 1,070 information technology professionals surveyed online, 81 percent were aware of XP’s end of life, but almost 6 in 10 would be unable to migrate all end-user devices to a new OS by April 8. Additionally, 72 percent of respondents said they would upgrade to Windows 7, and 13.5 percent would opt for Windows 8.
But Ciabarra makes the case for merchants to make the leap to tablets rather than attempt to upgrade systems to support Windows 7 or 8. "What's the point of upgrading when you are upgrading to a system that involves malware?" he said. "Windows allows malware."
And installing new Windows software is not all that upgrades encompass, Ciabarra added. "Now that you've upgraded the operating system, you have to get the new version of the POS that runs on Windows 7, Windows 8," he said. He estimated that total upgrade costs would run into thousands of dollars – even for small merchants.
Pointing out that the large, expensive and reputation-damaging data breaches involving Target Brands Inc. and Neiman Marcus exploited weaknesses in networks that operated in Windows environments, Ciabarra said switching to tablet POS systems is a "no brainer."
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