Microsoft Retail Stores: Hit or Miss?
Coinciding with the October 22nd Windows 7 release, Microsoft is launching its first retail store at the Fashion Square Mall in Scottsdale, Arizona (pictured). It’s anyone’s guess whether it’ll be hit or miss, especially since big media like BusinessWeek had once publicly addressed Steve Jobs and told him that his Apple Store concept would fail. Here’s what could go right — and wrong — with the Microsoft Store effort.
A recent Wall Street Journal article — which cited this erroneous BusinessWeek assumption — talks about the slum Apple pulled itself out of with the retail store and likens it to Microsoft’s current plight. But other than the general ‘copy cat’ argument people are making, lets take a look at the Microsoft Store objectively.
Microsoft offers a ton of stuff, no one disputes that. Instead of buying bits and pieces from 3rd party places like BestBuy, a PC/XBOX/Zune family would find a one-stop shop. Microsoft hasn’t ever ‘organized’ like this. They also haven’t ever had a place to ‘show off’ and debut new products. Mock-up pictures of the store show various interactive areas using Microsoft’s touch-technology, ‘Surface’, and that means it’s a chance for the every-day consumer to see that Microsoft, like Apple, is innovating. Having a store front in a mall has the potential to bring in drifters, too. A drifter in BestBuy might be unsure of what to buy, but one in a Microsoft store will likely be helped by a knowledgeable rep and presented with a Microsoft solution.
Overall idea: It helps keep Apple honest.
Failure could result from the Microsoft “Guru Bar.” (A play on Apple’s “Genius Bar.”)
When you’re an Apple Genius, you have a very limited set of hardware and software to troubleshoot. Essentially, there are only so many things that can ‘go wrong.’ If there’s a software issue, the resolution is likely to be true across all Macs, ditto for hardware. Fixes are relatively easy. But if you’re a Microsoft Guru, you’ll be looking at HP, Dell, Lenovo, Toshiba, or any number of miscellaneous brands that the store offers. Problems are much harder to pinpoint. Although the rumor mill claims the selection will be limited to stave off confusion, it’s still a very real issue. If it’s anything like the BestBuy “Geek Squad,” it’s not going to be a one-stop solution center like Apple. Plus, it’s unlikely Microsoft is going to offer a blanket warranty like “Apple Care.” When you water down the ‘customer service’ experience, it’s really just another brick-and-mortar consumer electronic store.
Overall idea: Microsoft isn’t really offering a new shopping experience.
With the hype of Windows 7 on the horizon, opening the first Microsoft Store store on launch day could be a brilliant idea to acclerate sales and get people excited about the store. But, Microsoft never fails to show they don’t fully understand their demographic. Will you be lining up in Scottsdale for your copy of Windows 7 or the free Ashley Tisdale ticket?