Great news, folks! Kounta is now natively supported on a wider variety of devices than ever. Release 4 will add support for tablets and phones with screen resolutions as low as 1200×800, while the current version is already able to look beautiful on the 2732×2048 iPad Pro. But the biggest news of all is probably the fact that the full Kounta experience is available on the iPhone. When I was asked to write the post announcing this full-bodied dive into the mobile POS pool, I’ll admit I was pretty confused. Isn’t Kounta already a mobile POS? I asked to no one in particular. And hasn’t there been a Kounta iPhone app for at least the year that I’ve been working with this company? When asking no one in particular turned out to be a fruitless endeavor, I turned to a colleague of mine who put the idea of mobile POS into perspective.
Screw mobile POS, he said, that’s a technology enabler.
This statement confused me for a couple reasons. The first is that my laptop and I are in counseling together, and the therapist suggested that my insistence on encouraging it towards destructive behavior makes me a technology enabler–so I wasn’t quite sure what this colleague was talking about. The second reason is that “screw mobile POS” is not the kind of thing you expect to hear from a guy who works in that space. It made a lot more sense when he went on to explain just what he meant, that “mobile POS” isn’t in itself a breakthrough worth talking about. It’s just two words that describe a new-ish technology platform, now available for people to innovate around. In other words, hardware and software enable merchants to take payments pretty much wherever they are these days, but forward thinking developers don’t view it as the final answer to a problem–it’s just the starting point in a steady march towards changing the face of retail. The more I think about that, the more sense it makes. Let’s face it, when the idea of taking payments over a smartphone first took hold, it didn’t take a genius to figure out that vendors on the go (think food trucks, or merchandise tables at festivals or sporting events) were the prime beneficiaries of this technical leap. A whole group of retailers could retire their “Cash Only” signs, opening up a new market for credit card processors.
Now, in the wake of Square’s popularity, there have been plenty of cynical attempts by other companies looking to get in on the mobile craze. These attempts are often less about creating truly great apps that benefit users, and more about the developers themselves exclusively partnering with payment companies and grabbing a slice of that sweet credit-transaction pie. Is it great news for the falafel truck that they can take credit cards at the beach? Yes, it is. But couldn’t that technology enable them to do so much more? It takes a technical whiz to figure out how to leverage the ubiquity of microprocessors and broadband connectivity for mobile payments; it’s a different kind of thinker altogether to look at those same conditions and wonder about the possibilities of taking sales 15 feet away from the checkout counter. It’s a less obvious, but no less innovative, line of thinking.
Let’s go back to Square for a second: I’m not looking to single them out here, but their story certainly serves as a great example for what I’m talking about. When Square launched in 2010 the focus was on payments, and it quickly became one of those disruptive technologies that puts the old guard (in this case: big banks) on notice. Five years later, though, while still the most recognized player in the mobile payments space, Square Register is just another entry in the influx of cloud POS apps. And while it’s a decent product, it’s also a closed system: users can only accept credit payments via the company’s one-size-fits-all approach to transaction fees. The POS model exists to funnel customers through the payment service–there’s nothing nefarious about this, but it does stand as the reason behind the “Screw mobile POS” dismissal I attributed to my unnamed and possibly imaginary colleague earlier. You start with a basic mobile app that takes payments, and then everything that comes next has to back its way into–and be propped up by–that first profitable product.
But if you start with a fully featured POS, then everything that comes next–like going mobile–has to back its way into that. Kounta started as a cloud POS with an eye towards hospitality and retail. Equipped with a cellular tablet, you could take it anywhere and do quite a lot with it; in that sense it was always mobile. But the real motive of behind its development was to change the way brick and mortar shops do business inside their four walls. Take a register (tablet) out to the sales floor with you and ring someone up one-on-one. Store customer information on that register, and provide better customer service through valuable information (like what this customer bought last time, which helps for up- and cross-sell opportunities). Speed up payments through new technologies like Apple Pay or Tyro’s Tap & Go. Leverage the security of the latest encryption for store customer data and customer. Easily take food orders at the table and send a detailed, easy-to-read copy to a kitchen printer in no time. Get insight into all your historical sales data to make better business decisions in the future. Integrate with complementary apps so users can build a POS that’s right for them, including using the payment provider of their choice. These are all the things Kounta’s been working on since its inception. Build a better, beautiful, and more useful POS. Though more features are to come, the goal of making that better POS has been realized. And now you can fit it in your pocket.