Back in February, innovative payment-processing startup Square introduced Business in a Box, a bundle which turned an iPad into a cash register. It included a third-party stand and a third-party cash drawer; it looked really useful, but I was a bit surprised that a company as interested in controlling its user experience was willing to outsource so much of it to existing products designed by other companies.
Turns out that Business in a Box was a stopgap. At an event at San Francisco‘s Blue Bottle Coffee this morning, the company introduced Square Stand, a $299 iPad-as-cash-register device which it designed itself. It’s Square’s second hardware product, after its tiny headphone-jack card Square Reader swiper, and will replace Business in a Box in July. (The first version is for the iPad 2 and third-generation iPad; a version for the current iPad, with Lightning connector, is due later this year.)
Square Stand exudes style: it’s white, sleek and gorgeous. With the iPad installed, it’s tough to tell where the tablet ends and the stand begins. And as with Apple products, even the packaging is an artistic statement. But Square co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey said that how it looks is less important than how it works. Speaking of existing cash register systems for small merchants, he said that “nothing works together, nothing is seamless, nothing fits. We thought we could do better.” The overall goal, he said, was to help merchants ring up more transactions in less time, thereby making larger quantities of old and new customers happy. As with other Square variants, merchants pay a flat 2.75% transaction fee for sales made through Square Stand.
Unlike Business in a Box, it doesn’t use Square’s headphone-jack swiper — instead, there’s an oversized, two-way swiper designed for easy, fast swiping in busy environments. “You don’t even have to look — you can look at your customer,” Dorsey said. The headphone jack is used to secure the iPad, like an improvised Kensington spot, and the whole thing swivels. It’s designed, of course, to be mounted to a countertop. And it works with Square’s free Square Register software.
The $299 price also includes the Square Hub, a USB adapter for use with third-party cash drawers and printers. (Business in a Box came with a cash drawer for the same price and had an optional printer; Square says that it doesn’t plan to start making these itself.)
Square Stand will be up and running in some retail establishments starting on May 15 — the sort of places which have already embraced Square as a payment system, such as local coffee houses, ice cream parlors and donut shops. But over time, Square has visions of bringing Square Stand or its descendants to larger chains, Dorsey said — maybe even Starbucks, which already does its payments processing through Square.
Will small merchants — and maybe, eventually, big ones — care about Square Stand’s elegance? I hope so. And I’m impressed by the fact that Best Buy plans to sell the stand in its stores; it seems to see it as a consumer-grade gadget that happens to be designed for business use.
Consumers are used to a pretty high standards when it comes to hardware and software design these day, but point-of-sale systems have still been stuck in the clunky-and-ugly era. One of the multiple disruptive things about Square as a company is that it’s telling businessfolk — with the Square Reader and now the Square Stand — that they deserve better.