Microsoft and PayPal finally jump aboard the point-of-sale terminals wagon

Last year, I was visiting Jacksonville, FL -- an up-and-coming city -- and needed lunch. Rather than being littered with fast food restaurants, food trucks were all the rage there. Now, these are not "roach coaches", as we call them in New York, but high-end gourmet offerings that just happen to be served from a truck. When it came time to pay, I panicked; I did not have cash! Luckily, the owner told me they take credit cards. I swiped my card on an iPad, signed on-screen with my finger, and had the receipt sent to me by SMS text message. Very cool.

While an iPad may meet the needs of a food truck, many businesses will have greater needs. You see, a computer like the Surface Pro 3 has a true desktop operating system -- the venerable Windows -- and can run the best-in-class full version of Microsoft Office. A business-owner would be smart to trust their company to a Windows machine. Well today, Microsoft and PayPal announce a partnership to bring PayPal Here to both the Surface and Lumia devices using software and a credit card reader. Yes, even Microsoft's laptop/tablet hybrid, the Surface Pro 3, will be a super-cool point-of-sale terminal!

"Laptops remain important to small business retailers to handle inventory, supply, customer relationship information and accounting. At the same time, they have quickly realized that tablets can enable new engagement models with their customers -- personalized interactions and commerce un-tethered from a cash register. So up until now, they were forced to buy two devices -- an iPad for transacting and a laptop for operations. Today that changes", says Microsoft.

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The company further explains, "later this year, a new PayPal Here app for Windows 8.1 will be available to customers in the United States through the Windows Store. For several years, PayPal Here has been used by retail storefronts, sole proprietors, offices, and businesses who want to accept payments more simply with an easy to set up, scalable mobile payment solution that grows with their business. Small business owners can already accept debit and credit card and PayPal payments via a variety of devices, and functionality has now expanded to include compatible Windows Lumia smartphones and Microsoft Surface tablets. With the new app, small businesses can easily track sales, manage inventory, and accept all forms of payments, all from a single Windows device".

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It is very interesting to see PayPal Here partner with Microsoft. Why? Well, the company already has success with Apple's mobile operating system, and there are far more iPhones and iPads than Surfaces and Lumias. In other words, why upset the great and powerful Apple unless absolutely necessary? PayPal must see a big future for the Surface line and Windows Phone for payments.

For those of you that say the Surface is too expensive for such a thing, don't forget that the Core i3 Surface Pro 3 starts at just $799 (£525) with 64GB of storage. The iPad Air 2 64GB, a much less-capable machine, is $599 (£393). The price difference is negligible in the grand scheme to a business owner. Heck, the Surface is arguably less expensive when you consider that you do not need to buy two machines. With Apple, you probably will need to buy an iPad and a laptop.

When it comes to small businesses, the perceived value in Microsoft's offerings should increase immensely once PayPal Here launches for it later this year.