Mi­crosoft in race to ring in till changes

The Mercury - - BUSINESS REPORT | INTERNATIONAL - Jef­frey Dastin and Stephen Nellis

MI­CROSOFT is work­ing on tech­nol­ogy that would elim­i­nate cashiers and check­out lines from stores, in a nascent chal­lenge to Ama­zon.com’s au­to­mated gro­cery shop.

The soft­ware gi­ant, which is de­vel­op­ing sys­tems that track what shop­pers add to their carts, has shown sam­ple tech­nol­ogy to re­tail­ers across the world and has held talks with Wal­mart about a po­ten­tial col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Mi­crosoft aims to help re­tail­ers keep pace with Ama­zon Go, a highly au­to­mated store that opened to the public in Seat­tle in Jan­uary.

Ama­zon cus­tomers scan their smart­phones at a turn­stile to en­ter. Cam­eras and sen­sors iden­tify what they re­move from the shelves. When cus­tomers are fin­ished shop­ping, they sim­ply leave the store and Ama­zon bills their credit cards.

Ama­zon Go, which will soon open in Chicago and San Fran­cisco, has sent ri­vals scram­bling to pre­pare for yet an­other dis­rup­tion by the world’s big­gest on­line re­tailer. Some have tested pro­grams where cus­tomers scan and bag each item as they shop, with mixed re­sults.

For Mi­crosoft, be­com­ing a strate­gic ally to re­tail­ers has meant big busi­ness. In ad­di­tion to de­vel­op­ing re­tail tech­nolo­gies, it ranks num­ber two be­hind Ama­zon in sell­ing cloud ser­vices that are key to run­ning e-com­merce sites.

It is not clear how soon Mi­crosoft would bring an au­to­mated check­out ser­vice to mar­ket, if at all, or whether its tech­nol­ogy would be the an­swer re­tail­ers are look­ing for. But some see the tech­nol­ogy as the next big in­no­va­tion in shop­ping, one that Ama­zon’s com­peti­tors can­not af­ford to ig­nore.

“This is the fu­ture of check­ing out for convenience and gro­cery stores,” said Gene Mun­ster, head of re­search at Loup Ven­tures. – Reuters

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