At the MediaConnect Kickstart 07 conference on the Sunshine Coast a number of speakers have been promoting an IT service model that could be very interesting to a whole raft of retailers. Known by its acronym as SAAS or Software as a Service, it is increasingly being touted as the ‘next big thing’ in the IT evolution.

The main attraction of this model, according to SAAS provider Marc Lehmann, chief executive of Netapplica, is that the costs of running your IT infrastructure are greatly reduced and that it can be run from anywhere, anytime, regardless of the age of your PC or the size of your company.

Lehmann says the cost savings derive from the fact that “you have nothing to install, no upgrades, no compliance issues, your tech costs are outsourced and all you need is a PC with a broadband internet connection and a browser”.

The model, which in very simplistic terms involves ‘leasing’ the software online, is firmly geared toward smaller retailers with limited IT budgets and small numbers of staff.

Furthermore, says Lehmann, Netapplica has taken venture capital from leading smart card developer Keycorp with a view of getting into the virtual POS sector.

“This would involve a total point of sale service from the purchase point to the inventory, accounting and financials all the way to the banking and merchant services,” says Lehmann.

And further down the track, he says, a “loyalty/CRM type system would also be added”.

Lehmann says that “franchises would be a natural customer for this virtual POS because of their centralised information and inventory repositories”.

And price-wise, he says, for a company with just two terminals and an accounting connection, you would be looking at $22.50 per month.

As for the Gateway service pricing, Lehmann says that Netapplica would structure a percentage per transaction fee similar to the PayPal model, but one whose costs were “significantly lower than that of the banks”.