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  • Thierry Spanjaard

POS, mPOS, SoftPOS: is this the end?

The POS terminal market has been shaken by the growth of Asian integrators and the arrival of the mPOS a few years ago, is it now endangered by the SoftPOS concept?

The mPOS has been originally developed as a means to reach small merchants, which did not have the means, or the business flow, to justify the acquisition of a regular POS terminal. The first mPOS had the inconvenience of supporting only magstripe reading, nowadays mPOS support Chip and PIN and are certified to the higher levels. Consequently, the mPOS business has cannibalized a significant part of the payment terminal industry, leaving traditional POS restricted to large merchants, chain stores, etc. The last issue of The Nilson Report includes their market analysis for the payment terminal industry: they assess that 136 million terminals were shipped worldwide in 2021, and that mPOS accounted for more that 30% of these shipments.

Already, the POS terminal market has evolved dramatically. One may remember when it was roughly a duopoly between Ingenico and Vodafone. This era is now over! And more generally, the era when POS terminal vendors were developing their own hardware and software is over as well. Many players integrate dedicated POS kernel chips and package them, or develop on an Android base. At the same time, several POS vendors, struggling in prince wars in the hardware industry, are providing software services and some of them have attempted a vertical integration entering the transaction processing business.

Verifone, which was once a market leader, has been acquired in 2018 by Francisco Partners, a US-based private equity firm specializing in technology and technology-enabled services businesses, for US$ 3.4 billion (EUR 3.45 billion).

Ingenico after years of independent existence as a POS terminal leader was acquired by Worldline, a spinoff of Atos, in 2020 in a EUR 7.8 billion deal, in an attempt to combine POS terminal activities with transaction processing. Now, Worldline is selling its TSS (Worldline Terminals, Solutions and Services) division, including the Ingenico brand name, to Apollo Funds, a US-based private equity firm, for a total consideration of EUR 2.3 billion.

The ranking published by The Nilson Report is also interesting: according to their research, Ingenico remains the market leader with 14.1 million devices shipped, but they are followed by five players based in Asia (in Taiwan and China), before reaching Verifone, which is ranked #7.

Now, the market is to be shaken up again with the spread of the SoftPOS concept: a POS is simply a smartphone, using its NFC reading capability to read payment cards, its touchscreen as a PINpad and executing most of its security functions in the Cloud. While the mPOS was originally set as a cheap alternative to a traditional POS, the SoftPOS can be seen as a totally free one! The original developers of mPOS and leaders in this segment, Square, Zettle, SumUp, … are now proposing integrated solutions leading to the fusion between the cash register and the payment system: many small shops have adopted tablet-based cash registers that also include mPOS functions.

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