IBM is in talks to acquire Revel Systems, developer of an iPad-based point-of-sale system, as the computing giant looks to strengthen its retail market offerings, according to a Bloomberg report.
The discussions remain at an early stage, however, and IBM also may trial the Revel POS (which supports in-store mobile order acceptance, e-commerce storefront sales and a range of additional requirements from inventory management to customer relations) before moving on to acquire the startup, Bloomberg notes.
IBM sold its own POS terminal unit in 2012 to Toshiba Tec Corp. for more than $800 million. Revel garnered $100 million in new funding as recently as 2014.
Bloomberg speculates that Revel might be needing to consider an acquisition as a route to more funding as venture capitalists and other financiers have become stingy of late. That could be a bittersweet outcome for a startup that seemed to have aspirations early on for an IPO right around now.
Revel is a rival of Square, the POS juggernaut that went public last year, so perhaps the folks are Revel are realizing they aren't far enough along yet to conduct an IPO as their next funding event, and need instead to seek a much larger suitor to keep up with Square.
Of course, these talks (which neither IBM nor Revel commented on) may not have been Revel's idea at all, but IBM's. Right around the time that it was getting deep into cloud computing, IBM sold off its Retail Store Solutions unit and may not have felt it needed to be in retail POS just then. However, the market for alternative and mobile POS terminals has become an active and crowded sector in the last few years. Maybe it's one that IBM wishes it hadn't left, or wants to get back into in any case.
All of this is just more speculaton, of course. Motives and outcomes may become apparent in due time. If this deal does eventually happen, though, the mobile POS market could welcome a giant to its table.