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Apple planning iPhone-based transaction system?

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By Charles Starrett

Contributing Editor
Published: Thursday, December 27, 2007
News Categories: Apple

A new Apple patent application suggests that the company is working on a wireless transaction system for devices such as the iPhone and iPod touch that would allow customers to order quick service items like coffee and fast food directly from their device, and to receive notification when their order was ready. According to the patent, the goal is to avoid an “annoying wait in a long queue if the purchaser arrives before completion of the order.” The application also describes a way to keep tabs on customers’ shopping preferences and favorite orders. Forbes says that the patent puts the Apple/Starbucks partnership “in a new light,” stating that the technology could move Apple “from the business of simply selling gadgets and music and movies that can be played on those devices into an intermediary in all kinds of exchanges.”

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Comments

1

Sounds great!  By the time this service is available I will have my iPhone.

Posted by Galley in Greenville, SC on December 27, 2007 at 11:54 AM (PDT)

2

Very interesting… I’m going to keep a close eye on this. Shouldn’t be too hard since I work at Starbucks nearly every day lol

Posted by Toleran on December 27, 2007 at 1:46 PM (PDT)

3

First step to the future. But what happens when someone is able to access your iPod Touch or iPhone and order whatever they like? Basically the same thing as someone being able to access your Credit Card. Hopefully the security is tighter on this one.

Posted by PinoyPlaya on December 27, 2007 at 4:08 PM (PDT)

4

Japan has had a system like this in place for at least a year.  Works for Japan Rail and a lot of the major retailers—gas stations too in some areas.  It’s incredibly convenient—can’t wait for it to be in the States!

Posted by Bryan on December 28, 2007 at 9:19 PM (PDT)

5

Oh wow… everything is so instant now.  But seriously, an “annoying wait in a long queue?”  The only time I ever though a wait in a queue was annoying was when I was in line for a half hour at Wal-Mart.  Don’t get me wrong, I think its a neat and innovative idea, but does no one know what patience is anymore?

Posted by TimW on December 29, 2007 at 12:48 PM (PDT)

6

Perhaps Apple has realized, like Google, that money is the ultimate content stream. Goodbye Quicken.

Posted by SteveN on December 30, 2007 at 10:48 AM (PDT)

7

Makes me wonder if these folks have ever worked at or managed any shop in the food service industry.

To take a hypothetical situation to extremes for ease of an illustration, I wonder if they have thought what would happen if: Five hundred chumps with iPhones all ordered a dozen Big Macs each on their way to the local McDonald’s. Do the chumps all expect that their dozen Big Macs will be ready immediately upon walking in the door, thus bypassing an “annoying wait in a long queue if the purchaser arrives before completion of the order”?

Don’t they realize that placing an order and preparing an order are two separate things, one of which can be made in less than a second by clicking on a touch screen, the other of which must obey the laws of physics in the cooking of a dozen Big Macs?

To put this into real-world perspective: Last night, there was a big football game. Everybody and his brother wanted a pizza to eat during the game. The local pizza shop has provision for one pizza to be made at a time (because the economics of the shop and its regular business demand this), and it takes a minimum of seven minutes for each pizza to come out of the oven fully cooked (because the laws of thermodynamics demand this). When two dozen people phone in their order within a space of twenty minutes, each requesting one or (usually) more pizzas, who in their right mind would expect all of those pizzas to be ready in seven minutes?

Here’s another scenario. It’s Mother’s Day at your fine-dining restaurant, and of course it’s the busiest day of the year for you (Black Friday is a joke, because everyone’s spent all their money on “sales,” and they go to AppleWhatever’s or McDonald’s for cheap dinner instead, not fine dining). Your line is out the door, there’s a forty-minute wait for tables. Your servers are all full, trying to balance four to eight tables each (preferably three), and the fourteen cooks in your kitchen are busting out non-stop. Not to mention that your equipment is working at capacity (you simply cannot stack more than a couple fry baskets in a full bank of seven fryolators if you expect all that food to actually cook). So, what does the floor manager do when people don’t want to wait for a table? He starts selling take-out. But your kitchen was already churning out food at seating capacity, with hopefully timely food and low ticket times. And you’re getting mad that your take-out is taking thirty minutes to get put in your hands. Absurd.

Clicking “Buy Now” on the iTunes Store to download a digital copy is one thing. Tapping “Order Now” on your iPhone to buy lattes and mochacinos and coco-locos and other “quick service items like coffee and fast food” for you and your twenty office mates is another.

Now, that’s not to say that the MOD’s worst nightmare will happen 24/7. And some adjustments can and should be made for increased sales outlooks for certain times of certain days (such as kitchen streamlining (which can be ridiculously expensive), or adding on additional help (which can put you out of business if not done intelligently and reactively), and so forth). Just don’t get in a hizzy when these things require raised prices.

Worst-case scenarios, of course, and not likely to be the norm. Just some things to think about.

My two cents, from having been there.

Posted by Tommy B. on December 30, 2007 at 12:08 PM (PDT)

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