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What Does Open-Source Mean for the Future of POS?

Recent news reports have indicated that CIOs are now allocating up to nearly one quarter of their budgets for open-source software. While this may be the case in some sectors, hospitality POS is not one of them. IHL Group's latest research indicates that 6% of 2008 POS shipments were running Linux, while Microsoft's share of Operating Systems continues to dominate the landscape. There are of course numerous reasons for this continued trend, not the least of which is Microsoft's "bully pulpit" power in terms of historical OS dominance. However, there are several other substantive and possibly more compelling reasons for Microsoft OS preference.

The current economic downturn, and the subsequent slashing of IT budgets, resulted in an overall decline of POS to hospitality establishments of 4% in 2008. Given that most economic forecasts indicate recovery is still well down the road, a continued decline in shipments can be expected for 2009 as well. While it can be argued that innovation during tight economic times sets the stage for future prosperity, the reality is that most operators will hunker down and keep their current POS systems for longer than originally anticipated. Those that do choose to purchase new units will most likely stay with what they know. Recent research by IHL in conjunction with RIS News indicated that fully 86% of operators are using a Microsoft OS, and 93% of them will consider using Microsoft as their next OS. Meanwhile, the 13% of operators that are using Linux indicate only an 80% preference for Linux as a replacement option. While both Microsoft and Linux users are very loyal, the bottom line is that right now, operators will likely choose to stay with what they know.

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