Toshiba's new entry into the crowded retail mobile payments market is a tablet that can quickly morph back and forth between mobile and more conventional payment methods.

Called TCxFlight, the tablet can be used as a point of sale terminal, a self-service kiosk, a manager's work station, an inventory management service or a mobile acceptance device.

"We want to give retailers freedom to move around the store, and also have a point of sale solution…and go back and forth between the two," says Leo Suarez, a senior vice president at Toshiba.

The tablet is a half inch thick and has an 11.6-inch display. Its docking station allows the tablet to be used similarly to an ordinary point of sale terminal; it also has a magnetic stripe reader embedded in the device that allows retail staff to accept card payments anywhere in a store. The tablet also accepts EMV-chip cards, Suarez says.

The payments capabilities combine with a dashboard view of inventory, product information and other store management functions. "We envision staff walking around the store on Black Friday or another busy day talking orders and payments from people while they are standing in line," Suarez says. "You can undock the device and walk around to help a person who is shopping in your store."

Beyond payments, staff can also use the tablet to serve consumers while they are in a store by proving updated information on products. The tablet weighs about two pounds and has a battery life of about six hours. The price depends largely on how many tablets a store deploys, Suarez says.

Toshiba is testing the tablet at a large department store that it would not identify and at Angus Barn, a restaurant in Raleigh, N.C. Angus Barn did not make a representative available for an interview.  Toshiba expects the tablet to be more widely available by March.

TCxFlight will combine with TCxGravity, Toshiba's cross channel shopping application.

The TCxGravity mobile app enables consumers to download information on loyalty programs and products into their own mobile device, and then make payments via the mobile phone. The TCxGravity and TCxFlight combination will allow both remote mobile payments and contactless payments, using the retailers' preferred contactless payments technology, Suarez says.

"The contactless payments technology that we will use to accept payments depends on the device the consumer is using, whether it uses [Near Field Communication] or another technology," Suarez says. Toshiba is not aggressively pushing alternative technology such as Apple's iBeacon, which uses a Bluetooth Low Energy signal to communicate with shoppers' phones. However, Toshiba offers user consultations on how to leverage TCxGravity and TCxFlight as part of an in-store iBeacon deployment, Suarez says.

Toshiba's hybrid approach to merchant payments resembles strategies used by a number of different retail point of sale-focused companies. Leaf, for example, sells a tablet that combines payments acceptance with merchant services. Leaf counts Heartland Payment Systems as an investor.

At the same time, Toshiba is also pursuing a strategy similar to that of Square, which is combining its free mobile acceptance technology with pricier products such as Square Stand, which is aimed at larger merchants.

PayPal also offers a mix of products. Its PayPal Here mobile point of sale device is designed for merchants who are not tethered to a cash register, whereas its PayPal Beacon, a Bluetooth Low Energy device, is meant for merchants who operate primarily from a physical store.

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