This eWeek article makes some interesting observations about scanning technologies, but I disagree with many of them: The article looks at a new technology coming from Microsoft that will let PocketPC users scan items in stores and read reviews about them. The writer compares the idea to Cue:Cat, a failed technology that let magazine readers scan bar codes in the magazine with a scanner hooked up to a computer for more information about the article or advertisement. This was just a bad idea--nobody reads a magazine while sitting in front of their computer.
On a side note, ironically, some Ziff Davis magazines (eWeek is published by Ziff Davis) were very keen on this idea a few years back. When I first got hired on at Interactive Week there was lots of talk about this and some higher ups were really gung ho on deploying it. I think Interactive Week did actually start embedding bar codes in the magazine but I'm not positive that it did.
At any rate, this article argues that the new Microsoft scanning idea will fail just like Cue:Cat. But I think there are appropriate applications for it. The writer considers using such a PocketPC to scan and read about nails at Home Depot or toilet paper at the grocery store. He's right that no one would care to do that and that there's a good chance that reviews that other people might post about products might likely be written by marketers at the companies.
But there are plenty of situations where this type of application could work and already is. Tech Superpowers in Boston has a trial that uses its free Newbury Open.net network to let customers at a bookstore borrow PocketPCs. The handhelds run software from SmartWorld that lets them scan the barcode on a book and get connected to reader reviews and other book recommendations on Amazon.com. I think this is a good application of scanning technology. I can also imagine using a scanner on a PDA when shopping for other competitive products like computers.
However, I agree that buying a PDA and a scanner just to do this kind of comparison shopping may be a stretch for some people. But who knows, there are a million different marketing deals that might make the scanner portion super cheap or free. Or, some shops might let shoppers borrow such devices, like the bookstore in Boston does.
Also, I just have to say that I personally love the self-scan check out at Home Depot. I use it all the time. It's much faster than waiting in the regular line and if I do have a problem with scanning something there's a clerk waiting to help out. But I have read many other complaints about it so I think some people love it and some people hate it.