REDMOND, Wash., May 6, 1999 — Microsoft Corp., along with the global OPOS Committee, today announced the OPOS 1.4 Common Control Objects. This latest evolution of the five-year-old POS integration effort upgrades OPOS from specification form to include published code – further decreasing development time and costs for retail software vendors and increasing peripheral choice and application protection for retail customers seeking a plug-and-play POS environment.
The new Common Control Objects were developed by Research Computer Services and ratified by the global OPOS Committee on March 30 during the quarterly OPOS meeting. Beta code can be accessed at the Microsoft-sponsored OPOS Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/industry/retail/developers/initiatives/opos/home.stm; final code is expected in June.
“When we began the process of integrating the various peripherals in our store environment, the complexity behind it was astonishing,” said Phil Osprey, IT architect at Marks and Spencer. “OPOS helped make that process much easier. It allowed us to integrate different versions and different supplier’s peripherals using a single interface for each type of peripheral. This has helped reduce the costs associated with deploying and integrating new applications, and the resulting integration has simplified overall systems maintenance and management. We have been voicing the merits of OPOS for quite a while now, and developments such as the new Common Control Objects only serve to strengthen our support.”
Microsoft and the OPOS Committee also revealed that an additional hardware port, Universal Serial Bus (USB), is now supported by OPOS. In addition, work is under way to enable OPOS functionality for convenience and gas station forecourts as well as the entire Windows® family of operating systems, including Microsoft® Windows CE and the upcoming Windows 2000.
“OPOS has been tremendously successful in leading the movement of POS software and hardware integration for retailers, but this latest development is extremely significant because it provides the actual code and not just a blueprint for that code,” said Tom Litchford, retail industry manager at Microsoft Corp. “OPOS essentially opens up the retail application environment to the PC world, where thousands of developers are building powerful solutions. So not only does OPOS make the development process easier for vendors but, more important, it also provides retailers with more choice and flexibility when choosing store systems.”
OPOS Driven by Global Retail Community
The global OPOS Committee accepts proposals from the retail community for additional device-class standards and functionality so that OPOS can continue expanding to accommodate a variety of programming languages, peripheral devices and development tools to create an integrated and open environment. OPOS was founded by a core team consisting of Microsoft Corp., Epson America Inc., ICL Retail Systems/Fujitsu and NCR Corp.
OPOS has also been well-received overseas, with specific extensions being developed for Japan (OPOS-J) and Europe (OPOS-Europe). In Japan, the number of OPOS-based solutions has more than doubled in the past year, with 114 products from 38 companies currently shipping. In the United Kingdom and Europe, nearly 40 ISVs are shipping OPOS-based applications.
Windows Momentum in Retail
Over the past year, the increase in Windows-based POS solutions has been dramatic. According to IHL Consulting Group’s “1999 U.S. Retail Point-of-Sale Terminal Market Study,” Windows and Windows NT® outshipped all other operating systems (IBM 4690, MS-DOS® and UNIX) in the retail POS customer segment combined for the first time in 1998. The study said that Windows and Windows NT now represent 64 percent of total POS shipments in the United States, compared to 50 percent in 1997. The figure signifies a 14 percent growth in the total share of Windows-based solutions in a customer segment that grew 15 percent in 1998, according to IHL.
“Nearly every major POS vendor has stated that its future direction is Windows NT for its server software, and most are planning 32-bit Windows-based computing clients as the primary offering,” said Greg Buzek, president of IHL Consulting Group ( http://www.ihlservices.com/ ). “And OPOS is inherently a very key piece of Windows-based POS deployments.”
Initiated in 1994 and supported by more than 200 companies worldwide, OPOS was the first standard programming interface specification of its kind for retail POS systems. The objective for developing OPOS was to create a plug-and-play environment that enables retailers to deploy best-of-breed software applications and still have freedom of choice with POS peripheral devices. Retail applications written in the Visual Basic® development system, the Java language, Delphi, C++ and many other languages are supported on Windows using OPOS devices.
“With OPOS, our customers now have the luxury of greater peripheral independence,” said Curtiss Monroe, senior software engineer at Research Computer Services and architect and developer of the new OPOS 1.4 Common Control Objects. “The new Common Control Objects help increase choice and flexibility for our customers’ POS software environment and allow them to mix-and-match hardware based on feature, function and cost.”
Part of a Broader, End-to-End Initiative
Microsoft is striving to define an end-to-end framework for product-related industries, from suppliers of raw materials to consumer products companies. In addition to OPOS, components of the product industries framework include the Microsoft ActiveStore
retail technology architecture initiative for store-level applications and the Value Chain Initiative (VCI) for supply-chain management.
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