This guest post is by Kevin Dallas, general manager of Windows Embedded at Microsoft

There’s been a tremendous amount of change in the retail industry the last few years—much of it at the expense of brick-and-mortar retailers whose chief competitors play by a slightly different set of rules and business requirements. Together with some of our device partners and retail customers, we’re designing solutions to help the brick-and-mortar retailer regain its competitive edge. Technical Program Manager Jeff Wettlaufer helped design a solution with Motorola and The Home Depot, and it’s on display in New York this week at the National Retail Federation (NRF) Annual Convention & EXPO. Jeff is here today to provide some insight on how the solution can transform the shopping experience.   

Hi everyone, we are here in New York to attend the 102nd NRF convention. Can you imagine what some of those first few events 90 to 100 years ago must have been like compared to today?

This is my first NRF, and while not my first “event rodeo” this one is different from those TechEds and Microsoft Management Summits. This event is massive, with more than 35,000 attendees — all suited and booted leaders from the industry here to check out the latest advancements in retail. It’s going to be interesting, as major stakeholders are in attendance. The run-up to the event has been amazing. For the past 10 months, our Microsoft team has been driving some very cool things that we get to announce today. We thought a quick blog post about what we are showing would be interesting to you.

Microsoft has a large booth, comprised of Dynamics, Windows, Windows Embedded, and our Enterprise and Partner Group. There is a lot to show from Microsoft about the business of retail; intelligent systems and Windows Embedded are at the core of many scenarios. 

In the Windows Embedded section of the booth, we are showcasing intelligent systems through the lens of one of our best customers – The Home Depot. In addition, we are sharing some significant partnership developments with an industry leader, Motorola Solutions. You should see our booth. It looks like a Home Depot store, with three scenarios — in home, in store and the backroom being demonstrated.

Microsoft’s technology gives retailers the tools and technology to fully implement a customer-centric strategy across their enterprise by increasing efficiency, empowering employees, leveraging consumer insight and optimizing operations. Through the story of a Home Depot customer, we are showcasing how connected intelligent systems, beginning in the home and then transitioning into the store can be personal, seamless and consistent across a variety of devices.

We take the demonstration through three stages, and highlight how an urban professional couple utilizes The Home Depot’s rich website and device apps to search, filter and purchase a kitchen faucet. They also use a feature entitled BOPIS – Buy Online Pickup in Store. Rolled out in 2011, BOPIS has been hugely successful nationwide. The Home Depot offers far more product inventory online compared to their stores. Through BOPIS, one can purchase easily on the site and then schedule a pick-up of that product in their local store. The Home Depot uses BOPIS as a bridge between the online consumer and in-store staff.

Helping to build that bridge so that it is productive, connected and secure is Microsoft partner Motorola Solutions. In an announcement at NRF, Motorola Solutions said it is expanding its enterprise mobile computing lineup to include devices built on the Microsoft Windows Embedded 8 Handheld platform. Motorola Solutions is joining Microsoft and The Home Depot in showing the possibilities. While many of The Home Depot investments are based on today’s in-market technology, they view the next wave of Windows 8 and Windows Embedded intelligent systems as business enablers to their retail strategy.  

Microsoft is also showcasing how Windows Embedded 8 Standard plays a large role on the retail floor. The platform provides a secure, small footprint device that supports rich, modern application experiences just like Windows 8.

We are also showing how intelligent systems running Windows Embedded products optimize the business of running a retail operation. Through on-premises Point of Service (POS), digital signage, HVAC controls and even security systems, retail business operators can combine real-time data from throughout their store with online, web- and cloud-based services to make intelligent decisions quickly. 

And don’t forget the importance of business intelligence. Windows Embedded systems play a critical role in the new data economy for retail, and as a source of a large amount of the data in a retail store, Windows Embedded devices that are now intelligent, connected sources can truly help drive new business insight.

We had a chance to sit with Brendan O'Meara, Managing Director for the Worldwide Retail Industry at Microsoft, to talk about what is happening with Microsoft in retail. Check out our conversation in this video.

Thanks for your time.