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Dell will introduce in January a retail kiosk designed to change function throughout the day, eWEEK has learned.

Similar kinds of kiosks are already in use by retailers, but the retailers have to define their purpose before deploying them. The new kiosks can be deployed at different spots in a retail location, perhaps at the loading dock in the morning to be used to check in items and then next in the pharmacy later in the day where it would function as a customer-facing information booth. This means retailers can purchase fewer units and make more use of the units they do buy.

The as-yet-unnamed 12-inch touch-screen units will likely list for about $1,300 to $1,800 each and will use POE (power over Ethernet), Brian Slaughter, Dell’s director of retail, told eWEEK in a telephone conversation.

Click here to read about IBM kiosks deployed by the Fuddruckers chain of restaurants.

Slaughter made much of the kiosk’s POE capability, partially because of its environmentally friendly aspect (the kiosk uses LEDs to keep power needs down) and also because of the lower operating costs and greater flexibility. “The cost of running Ethernet is substantially less than running power,” Slaughter said.

He added that video and sound can run over Ethernet at much greater distances than if the units had to be tethered to a regular power outlet. This allows retailers to store multimedia files for commercials and other videos on servers at the other end of the store, giving them the flexibility to deploy the kiosks where and when needed.

Slaughter said Wal-Mart and Target have been testing the units.

Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman can be reached at

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