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Hey, everybody wants more reliability and improved ease of use. And suppliers of POS hardware, software and services say they have it, which is why IHL Consulting Group reported last week that the PC-based POS terminal market grew to $6.5 billion in 2004, a 12 percent rate of growth.

"2004 was an outstanding year of unit growth for vendors, particularly in specialty stores, table service restaurants and super centers," says IHL president Greg Buzek.

If you're in the market for an upgrade, note that last year's revenue growth was not as high as unit growth. That's good news for you, because it underlines the fact that price points of PC-based POS systems fell because tech giants HP and Dell entered the market.

IHL also found that shipments of Linux-based POS units increased 34 percent year-to-year, but still represent only six percent of the overall market. The firm expects this number to rise dramatically in future years.

In the meantime, Microsoft rules. Shipments of Windows 2000/XP-based terminals represented 56 percent of the overall market. Windows 9x/CE accounted for another 15 percent of the shipments, giving Microsoft 71 percent of the POS market.

Full-service operators who buy news systems "want to use their dollars to update, upgrade and move to next-generation technologies," the report concluded.

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