Microsoft rings up cash-register customers

Six major European customers will use Windows XP Embedded for their point-of-sale terminals, while Linux is held back by SCO Group's threats

Microsoft said on Wednesday that six major European customers have agreed to use Windows XP Embedded (XPe) for their point of sale (POS) terminals, or computerised cash registers, as the company continues to battle proprietary systems and Linux for this growing market.

At the Global Retail Technology Forum in Barcelona, Spain, Microsoft said Carrefour - 8 A Huit, E.LeClerc, JD Group, McDonald's UK, METRO, and Telepizza have implemented or are implementing Windows XPe terminals, accounting for many thousands of terminals.

Earlier this week, research from IHL Consulting Group showed that competition between Linux and Windows is heating up in the North American POS market. Systems using versions of Microsoft's Windows accounted for the bulk of POS shipments in North America in 2003, but Linux shipments grew slightly faster over the course of the year, according to IHL.

E.LeClerc, a French retail chain, said it had deployed 2,000 XPe point-of-sale units in its stores, replacing Unix systems, and will be upgrading another 12,000 units over the next five years. McDonald's said XPe sped up the process of developing a new POS system, allowing the system to be developed and piloted in less than six months.

Microsoft said XPe's compatibility with Windows applications and hardware drivers gave it an advantage with customers. IHL's study said Linux's success in the market -- earlier predicted by analysts -- had been held back by lack of drivers, as well as by the threat of SCO Group lawsuits. |

Clothing retailer H&M is another major Microsoft POS customer in Europe, with half its 950 shops worldwide using Windows 2000 Professional.

Shipments of Windows 2000 or XP systems in North America increased 13 percent in 2003 and now account for 54 percent of total shipments, IHL said on Tuesday. Overall, Microsoft operating systems (excluding DOS-based machines) represent 70 percent of the North American market.

But the company's open-source rival made gains as well. Shipments of Linux-based point-of-sale units rose 19 percent year over year.

Microsoft and other large tech companies have been stepping up their efforts in the retail segment with new products and services. Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft, for instance, are working together to entice shops to drop proprietary systems in favour of HP's point-of-sale hardware and Microsoft's Smarter Retailing Initiative.

CNET's Dinesh C. Sharma contributed to this report.