July 15, 2011
Back in 2009 when I was first cutting my blogging teeth under the watchful eye of The VAR Guy, I wrote about the opening of the first Microsoft Store, in Scottsdale, Ariz. I was skeptical about its success and cited a bevy of problems with running a store that is supposed to emulate Apple’s model. But Microsoft has announced it plans to build more of them. What is Microsoft’s goal, and can the company succeed? Here are my thoughts on the idea …
While The VAR Guy was busy getting the lowdown on all things partner-related at Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2011, it’s likely he was so busy he missed out on this little nugget. Apparently, Microsoft will be adding 75 stores to its existing 11. According to a report by ZDNet’s Mary-Jo Foley, locations have been suggested but none have been actually selected. However, Microsoft is dead serious about expanding its retail presence.
Why would Microsoft do this? I’ve surmised it’s a two-fold plan.
First, the most obvious reason is it’s a way to continue proliferating the Microsoft brand. Currently having only 11 stores makes me wonder whether Microsoft was testing the water, and the simple act of announcing it’s planning to add 75 stores is enough to get people to notice. If all 75 stores actually do get built in the near future, the momentum should generate some serious foot traffic, especially from people who don’t normally live in the PC world. More Microsoft-specific retail outlets also could be more beneficial than traditional big-box stores because (hopefully) Microsoft’s Gurus (yup, that’s their name) can show off the benefits of buying into the entire Microsoft ecosystem.
But the second reason — and I think the most obvious reason — is to better showcase Windows Phone 7. It has taken a beating in the market so far, with both sales and reviews tepid at best. As you may remember, I lived with a Windows Phone 7 for a little while and found it snazzy but underwhelming.
I love competition as much as the next guy, but I have a feeling that even with the major push that building 75 stores represents, Microsoft may be too late to the game. Consumers are wise to what works for them and what doesn’t. With Android and Apple dominating the marketplace, Microsoft Stores could very well serve as a place to buy Xbox controllers and accessories and not much else. Since Microsoft killed the Zune, I’m having a hard time seeing someone walk into a Microsoft store and walk out with a digital life in their shopping bag, like they could at an Apple Store with an iPod, MacBook and accessories.
But we’ll just have to wait and see whether Microsoft can pull it off. Let me know in the comments if you’d spend your money at the Microsoft Store, and more importantly, what would you be looking for in there?
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