Apple Tweaks Operations For Holiday Season

October 27, 2009

The last three months of each year always bring a rush of shoppers to Apple’s stores, creating record revenues but also challenging the stores to maintain the “surprise and delight” that visitors have come to expect during the holiday buying season. This year, Apple will update its operations to reduce visitor confusion and streamline sales. First, Apple will drop the aircraft carrier-like T-shirts that are color-coded to indicate the employees’ skills. Visitors have reported that seeing orange, dark blue, light blue, medium blue and black T-shirts is simply confusing. Beginning soon, the entire store staff will wear the same color T-shirt, with that color changing from time to time. Next—and more dramatically—employees will ditch the current EasyPay portable computers made by Symbol Technologies, and will begin using an iPod touch with an advanced scanner accessory and point-of-sale (POS) software. First, the iPod touch scanner will allow employees to capture data from products that have multiple barcodes using a single pass, including the UPC, Apple serial number and product code, cellular IMEI and ICCI numbers. Second, the new set-up will allow employees to accept cash for purchases without hiking to a central register position. The switch to the iPod touch is made possible by this year’s V3.0 software update, reported by AppleInsider back in April, that includes support for external devices. It’s not clear if Apple has programmed its own POS software or is using an application from another vendor. Apple debuted the current EasyPay POS system for the 2005 holiday buying season. It’s been generally successful from Apple’s perspective. However, employees have voiced many criticisms of EasyPay over the years, saying it suffers from crashes, loss of Wi-Fi connectivity and sluggish operation. The EasyPay devices run a version of the Windows CE operation system, feature a black-and-white screen and require a stylus to write signatures or make menu selections. Update: Tipsters say Apple developed the POS software that will run on the new iPod touch devices, and also designed and had built the battery pack for the device.

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