Multimedia kiosks require re-think - Embedded.com

Multimedia kiosks require re-think

Vendors must provide a compelling business case for multimedia kiosks as their market wavers, according to research from Frost & Sullivan. The international market researchers say the multimedia kiosk market must change radically in order to flourish and to live up to the high expectations for return on investment placed on the technology in the late 1990s. Mainstream acceptance and visibility have been knocked by a prevailing perception of limited kiosk functionality, use being limited to that of an information appliance.

Amid economic uncertainty, kiosk sales in France, Germany, UK and Italy jointly amassed EUR 129.8 million in 2002, predicted to grow to EUR 146.9 million in 2005. This equals unit shipment growth from 28,060 to 34,633 during the same timeframe.Frost & Sullivan defines a kiosk as a free-standing computer-based device that allows the public or a specified group of users access to device-based or online information and/or services. It does, however, exclude Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs), lottery equipment, and gaming devices.

However, says Frost & Sullivan, many of the smaller kiosk vendors are struggling because they offer little value over and above a PC-in-a-box product. They provide few services and are focused on low margin and, currently, on low unit volume projects. The rest of the market is suffering because these vendors project a low-value image of a kiosk.

Vendors of multimedia kiosks are being urged to provide an attractive value proposition to tempt prospective customers into the industry and to ramp up deployment by providing superior products. Kiosks must be tailored to the specific needs of customers and perform functions associated with tangible business benefits to instil the level of investor confidence required to invigorate sales in this beleaguered market.

Although other labels such as 'self-service' help in distinguishing high-value kiosks from lower-value PC-in-a-box type solutions, in reality, the basis for any kiosk implementation must be to address a clear and present business need.

“Vendors are advised to consider how kiosks help their customers achieve business objectives, how they fit into their strategy as a whole, as well as identifying areas where perhaps kiosks are less suitable than other technologies,” said Andrew Tanner-Smith, senior industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

However, with only a handful of strong references and a tide of low-value kiosk vendors maintaining a small but serviceable market for kiosks (which are nothing but a 'PC-in-a-box'), this is a mammoth task. The market is set for a strong round of consolidation that will sweep away a large number of small players. Tanner-Smith concedes that many of the leading vendors in the market are already implementing strategies for creating market distinction.

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