Even the hardest working people need a vacation eventually, and I’m no exception. The destination of choice this time was Key West (embarrassing to admit I’m a Florida native but had never been) and it’s everything you’d imagine. If you’re looking for a vacation destination they Keys should be on your list; if you go The Mermaid and Alligator bed and breakfast is highly recommended- the owners were very kind, the service was excellent, and the location was perfect- walking distance to every corner of Key West’s historic district.
While there I was surprised to see how much Apple has infiltrated what was a strictly Windows/analog world. A couple of vendors had iMacs instead of PCs behind their counter, and several were using iPads instead of registers entirely. When picking up some amazing Mexican chocolate from a small boutique the vendor took payment via his iPad encased in a custom swiveling plexiglass enclosure; he tapped on full color images to select what I had purchased, swiped my card via a headphone jack card scanner, then flipped the case over so I could use my finger to sign for my purchase on the iPad’s screen. The transaction was very quick and convenient: no paper receipt to sign, no fumbling around the register for a working pen, and the receipt was emailed to me immediately (also giving the merchant a chance to enroll me on his mailing list).
Another encounter with an iOS-using merchant was at the almost-too-good-to-be-real dessert restaurant Better Than Sex. The bed and breakfast concierge had made reservations that were entered into an iPad app, when I arrived the greeter dragged an icon for the reservation to an open table to mark the arrival and mark what waiter would be serving the table.
I understand better why Microsoft is rushing to market with their Surface line of tablets in the face of growing hardware partner displeasure. As iOS devices enter into markets and functions that had been the sole domain of Microsoft products important revenue streams are imperiled. I’ve seen many a small merchant using iOS devices to take card payments, keep inventory, make orders, and other productivity tasks that Apple was never known for in the past. The very nature of how businesses get tasks done is rapidly changing; I’d wager Steve Ballmer and company have seen one to many innovations pass them by.
UPDATE: I’m not the only one that’s noticed the expanding business use of iOS devices. TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog) recently posted an image of a customer self-serve kiosk using an iPad. The concept is elegant in its simplicity- just pick what you’d like, swipe your card, and an associate brings your order to your table. I love technology.