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New HP terminal to mind the till

Hewlett-Packard will announce on Monday plans to enter the market for retail point-of-sale terminals with its PC-like rp5000 cash register.

Hewlett-Packard hopes to ring up more sales at retail with a new PC-based point-of-sale terminal.

The Palo Alto, Calif., PC giant will announce on Monday its HP rp5000 point-of-sale terminal, essentially a PC-based cash register.

HP has a large presence in the retail market, deriving $1.9 billion in revenue from the industry since its May 2002 merger with Compaq Computer. But the HP rp5000 is the company's first home-brewed point-of-sale terminal.

Retail has become one of the hottest niche markets of late for technology companies. Both IBM and Intel now have dedicated teams focused on creating products specifically for the market. Aside from consuming PC-based terminals, servers and software, the retail market is expected to become a hotbed for newer technology, such as wireless networks and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, which are used to ID products for inventory purposes.

HP will tout the new terminal--which is expected to ship this summer--as a lower-cost alternative to systems based on proprietary technology and as a device that's easier to manage than are terminals cobbled-together from a standard desktop computer, said Tiffany Smith, an HP spokeswoman.

HP's new terminal is based on the company's D530 Business Desktop, using standard PC components like Intel Pentium 4 processors and running on Windows. But it has also been beefed up with an improved cooling system as well as extra ports for attaching peripherals like bar-code scanners. It will ship with a choice of one of several versions of Microsoft's Windows operating system, including Windows 2000, Windows XP Professional and Windows XP Embedded. XP embedded is a specialized version of the OS. It's designed for equipment such as automatic teller machines and cash registers.

"When you're looking at rolling out tens, hundreds or thousands of these across the nation, you need something that's a little more robust than a standard desktop," Smith said.

HP expects the terminal to cost less than $1,000, Smith said. The base price includes only the terminal, however. Devices like scanners, receipt printers and cash drawers will cost extra.

Although HP will be able to build off of its presence in the retail space, it faces a fairly crowded market for point-of-sale terminals.

IBM and companies such as NCR have been building such terminals for years. Like HP, IBM can combine its terminals with a broad range of other technology products and services for retailers. In just one example, Big Blue inked a $1.1 billion technology outsourcing contract with Boots, a drugstore chain in the United Kingdom.

HP's arch rival, Dell Computer, has also entered the retail point-of-sale market, launching its own terminal in January.

The Dell terminal bundles one of the company's Optiplex desktop PCs with equipment such as a touch screen, a bar-code scanner, a thermal printer and a cash drawer. Prices on the bundles start at about $1,800, Dell has said.