Apple has over 300 retail stores, but it relies heavily on mobile devices — not just cash registers — to handle payments in its aisles. Intuit's latest update to QuickBooks Point of Sale allows its small-merchant clients to duplicate Apple's model.

The newest version of Intuit's software, QuickBooks Point of Sale 2013, integrates with Intuit's GoPayment mobile card reader to enable sales on the floor while maintaining a connection to merchants' inventory system.

"There's a lot of excitement that's coming as people see what Apple's doing in Apple stores, of getting rid of the idea that there's a register that you have to go to," says Trevor Dryer, the head of product management for Intuit's mobile payments and point of sale businesses, in an interview.

The earlier version of QuickBooks Point of Sale, called Version 10, "didn't really interact at all" with GoPayment, Dryer says.

Merchants that chose GoPayment or one of its competitors "had to choose what I call 'point of sale lite' — the basic functionality that you get from a mobile device," he says. "That's a big reason why we did this integration as part of this new release."

So far this year, Intuit has attracted more than half of its new payment customers with GoPayment. These users are divided into two sets: the micro-merchants, such as babysitters and gardeners, who care only about payments; and the traditional small merchants looking to accept payments without being tethered to a cash register.

Both of these groups will benefit from QuickBooks Point of Sale integration, Dryer says.

The integration "provides these brick-and-mortar folks a better in-store experience," he says, and it also helps micro-merchants graduate more easily to Intuit's other products as they grow.

Intuit also recently updated its GoPayment software to allow merchants to calculate the local sales tax based on information from the phone's built-in GPS (see story).

Square, which sells a rival card reader, unveiled a product in March called Register, which is meant to replace a cash register with straightforward inventory tools.

It doesn't quite compare to Intuit's offering, says Jacob Jegher, a senior analyst at Celent.

"Square Register, to the best of my knowledge, doesn't tie into any other systems," he says.

Of course, the difference in features is reflected in the price. QuickBooks Point of Sale, at its cheapest, costs about $1,100. Square Register is free to download from Apple's iTunes.

Intuit's decision to integrate its products addresses a pain point for "larger small businesses," Jegher says.

"The whole supply chain" for a small merchant "has all kinds of gaps in it or is disconnected," he says. "As technology matures and we get a lot more tools out there, the risks of those disconnections become even greater."

Integrating new technology, such as a mobile card reader, with traditional point of sale software closes one of those gaps, Jegher says.

"Instead of taking this payments vehicle and treating it as a standalone entity, they … open up a new channel for potential use of the mobile payments solution," he says.

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