If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Amazon should be blushing. In this particular instance, it’s because a report from Reuters said Microsoft is developing cashier-less technology à la Amazon Go—and it has had talks with retailers like Walmart.
Microsoft and Walmart did not respond to requests for comment.
Reuters said it was not clear when—or if—Microsoft’s cashier-less technology will come to market.
Amazon calls Go a “Just Walk Out” shopping experience in which customers use an app to enter the store and technology like computer vision, sensor fusion, deep learning and lots and lots of cameras help it detect when products are taken from or returned to store shelves. When customers are done shopping, they leave the store and Amazon charges their accounts.
It isn’t a full-fledged grocery store, but rather includes ready-to-eat options, as well as grocery fare like bread, milk, cheese, chocolate and meal kits.
But the question remains whether cashier-less retail is the wave of the future or a flash in the pan.
Reuters, however, observed that being an ally to other retailers has worked out well for Microsoft so far, as its cloud services business, Azure, is second only to—you guessed it—Amazon Web Services.
Forrester analyst Sucharita Kodali noted the players in the space are Amazon, Alibaba, JD, Intel and now Microsoft.
“Several of those options don’t make sense for Walmart, but a third party tech company like Microsoft absolutely would,” she said. “Will they be able to actually offer something that works? Who knows … too early to tell. But it’s a great idea and what Walmart cannot ignore.”