The iPad appears to be the "hot" new technology sweeping across consumer laps, and the device's software applications apply to a variety of service markets, from food to travel. The nifty little device has been integrated with self-service kiosks, and some businesses are jumping on the bandwagon.
But other self-service companies are skeptical of the iPad's durability against harsh public environments and its processor capability.
The iPad's versatile capabilities appeal to the kiosk industry, with features including touchscreen technology, customizable application software and a multitouch user interface. The consumer device is considered separate from traditional kiosks, though, because of its portability and delicate design.
Kiosk and self-service mainstays are still scrambling to find ways to incorporate the iPad into their offerings.
Nanonation chief marketing officer and senior vice president Brian Ardinger says his company has a long history of Apple-related product development and has expanded these efforts to include iOS projects for the iPhone and iPad.
"We recently showcased an application designed for sales associates in a retail environment at the KioskCom show in Vegas in April of this year," Ardinger said.
Nanonation featured an application designed for the furniture company Room & Board, which allows users to browse inventory and provides customers a sign-up form to receive special offers.
The Malaysian Kuala Lumpur Airline rolled out the first iPad ticket kiosk. SITA Lab developed the MHkiosk, which allows users to book and purchase flights, search for flight schedules and flight status and check-in, as well as choosing their preferred seat.
Retailer The Gap has also embraced the iPad kiosk. Its application software, developed by AKQA, is described as a "social-shopping experience." Users can customize outfits within the Gap brand and ask for advice from sales assistants.
Blain Warkentine, founder of ipad-kiosks.com, is one of many iPad business enthusiasts working to get products to market. Warkentine said service industries need to become more efficient, but the iPad may not always be the answer for them.
For example, Warkentine says, the food-service industry demands quicker and better service than the iPad can provide if used improperly, but used properly it can still deliver benefits. During harsh lunch hours, restaurateurs have the option of removing the iPad from its kiosk mounting and have a mobile menu at hand for customers, which can virtually eliminate wait times. Once the lunch hour rush is over, then the iPad can be placed back into the kiosk stand for customers to use as a kiosk to order meals.
"Every technology platform offers positives and negatives. Traditional kiosk platforms have excelled at issues such as peripheral support, remote management and enterprise integration," Ardinger said. "The iPad doesn't pose an immediate threat for some of the kiosks developed specifically for retail environments like the IBM Anyplace Kiosk and others. These solutions have been retail hardened, offer a variety of peripheral support options and have a longer legacy of application development."
Still others in the field say the iPad is fun, but just isn't robust enough for public deployments.
"While these kinds of consumer-grade products are powerful and fun devices, right now they simply cannot stand up to the daily wear and tear a kiosk is subjected to," said Bob Ventresca, vice president of marking for NCR Netkey.
Media representatives for Apple PR declined comment for this story.
Typical interactive kiosks featuring touchscreen technology, printer enclosures and software average between $3,500 and $8,000, and customized materials and design can cost an additional $1,000 to $10,000. Extra software varies from $2,500 to $20,000. Also, some traditional kiosks are leased to businesses at discounts of up to 20 to 50 percent of the price of a new kiosk, according tobuyerzone. Ipad-kiosks.com cofounder Julia Fullerton says that the ipad kiosk is going to run about $1,100 vs $3,100 for the traditional kiosk, and weighs a fraction as much.
"Many retailers have already created apps on the App Store: Walgreen, Target, etc.," Warkentine added. "The investment was made for customers' devices, but the need for that customer to have the app and the device is no longer required with ipad-kiosks."
The ipad-kiosks.com enclosures can be purchased with volume discounts for quantity orders of five or more, and the enclosures, pedestal and mounts vary from $525 to $1,254, not including the iPad, Fullerton says.
"In the end though," Ardinger said, "it will come down to what experience the retailer wants to create and matching it with the technology that enables them to best develop, deploy and support it."