Options for retail IT managers broadened last week as Hewlett-Packard and IBM bolstered their retail products and services.
HP is hoping to attract retailers with three new services to help their IT teams design, deploy and manage IT infrastructure.
HP Retail Agility Services will give retailers on-site break-fix and maintenance of point of sale systems, whether they are HP or legacy devices.
A retail media software package - HP Retail Webcasting Platform - has been developed to create and manage interactive online training programmes and deliver corporate and product information to employees and customers. The service can be hosted or managed internally.
HP is also working with Cyclone Commerce on a radio frequency identification system to help retail pharmacies avoid counterfeit medicines. RFID tags and readers are used to track and authenticate drugs along the supply chain from manufacturer to consumer.
IBM has launched a range of technologies based on its Bladecenter platform designed to help retailers manage remote store environments.
IBM Systems Solutions for Retail Stores consolidates all in-store servers, storage, networking and applications onto a single physical IBM package with a common management infrastructure. The system covers software, networking and security and uses two-way or four-way servers based on Power, Intel or AMD processors.
Massimo Franzese, consultant at retail consultancy Leadent, said, "Easy deployment and cost-effective maintenance of the in- store technology is a main point on the agenda of senior IT executives."
Franzese said HP had been tailoring its retail products over the past three years and was able to provide a client infrastructure based on de facto standards such as Intel processors and Microsoft operating systems. This made the platform extremely competitive from a price point of view, he said. And HP's latest releases have addressed the deficit of software management tools in its offering.
The difference with IBM, Franzese said, was that it offered a wider choice of processors, not limiting itself to Intel. It could also offer a choice of operating systems, including Linux.
The right choice of in-store technology is not driven only by the ability to fix problems quickly but also by the ease of software management, said Franzese.
"Rolling out software patches or new functionality is something to bear in mind before taking a decision only based on low initial cost of the hardware kit so IT executives and managers should consider this carefully in addition to what is their strategy in terms of licensing costs and software standards," he said.