Microsoft to Open Own Stores

By Craig Buckler
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Microsoft shopIt’s a big week for Microsoft. Windows 7 debuts on Thursday and the new OS is widely expected to be a success. Microsoft would argue that Vista was hardly a flop, but individuals and organizations have been slow to upgrade from the more-than-capable Windows XP. I’m going to make a sweeping statement that may shock some: Vista isn’t that bad. It has some irritating habits and needs decent hardware, but the majority of problems have been ironed out. However, Vista gave Windows a bad name and much of the media mud slinging has stuck.

Microsoft learned valuable lessons with Windows 7. It’s leaner, faster, and the OS has been publicly tested for many months. It’s good — even I bought a copy. (Although I may have reconsidered if I’d seen Microsoft’s embarrassingly awful “Hosting Your [Windows 7] Party” commercials first!)

Excitable Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will unveil Windows 7 at a press conference on Thursday. Industry rumor-mongers are also expecting him to provide further details about the opening of Microsoft’s standalone stores, with the first expected in Scottsdale, Arizona, US.

This is a new venture for Microsoft. As well as tackling Google in the cloud, they hope to beat Apple on the high street. But will it work?

Microsoft manufacture many products, so I’ve no doubt that they can fill a shop with desirable items such as the XBox, keyboards, mice, accessories and software. However, those products are available from almost every online and offline electronics retailer.

The same could be said for Apple’s stores, but they have a stronger and more tactile brand. Apple’s customer base has an unhealthy obsession with the products; fanboys stick with the company, they are less price-sensitive, and are quick to forgive any corporate transgressions.

That said, Microsoft is the world’s most successful IT business and they can obviously see some potential. Perhaps their own stores will raise the company’s profile beyond boring business software? But can Microsoft’s products ever reach the levels of desirability enjoyed by Apple?

Would you visit a Microsoft store? Would you find it exciting? Would you admit to that?

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  • joe

    What will they be selling? I mean, WHA?

  • simonbanyard

    This is going to be a mistake, but how big only time will tell. The Apple Store didn’t really have any competitors when they started out. In fact it could be argued that Apple needed to get a High/Main Street presence to enable them to better compete. Someone at Microsoft has seen how successful Apple Stores have been an thought that they would have a piece of that particularly lucrative pie. Except they aren’t really competing with Apple. No, their competitors are Best Buy and Target (in the US) and PC World/City (in Europe, if they open stores in Europe), not to mention the bigger online only computer stores and game stores. Although Apple are in essence in this market too, they are a niche vendor. Other than iPhone and iPod, most will make their Apple purchases with Apple at one of their stores, or with Apple’s online store.
    However you look at it (or try and excuse it!), Vista is a terrible flop! Less than 20% of Windows 90% market is extremely poor for the main product that they sell! Although the service pack (isn’t that all Windows 7 really is?) has greatly improved things, it’s still dog slow on most of the hardware out there. I have no doubt that Windows 7 will successful and it really is the best OS that Microsoft have ever produced, however I don’t believe it will be as huge a success as most of the media and pundits are predicting. Historically, Microsoft’s new OS’s have experienced slow uptakes, and Windows 7 has too many SKU’s that are priced too high. Most of Microsoft’s customers do not follow the upgrade route. Based on an admittedly small sample size (immediate family and friends) I know that none of them will be upgrading to Windows 7, unless they buy a new PC. As for enterprise, without really mentioning the small point that is the worst recession in over 70 years, we all know how slow they can be to upgrade. I know of one huge multi–national that we are all aware of that has only just completed an XP rollout that was started just two years ago—it’ll be at least 5 years before they, and I’d hazard others like them, consider upgrading again…

  • It looks like I’m alone here, I think b&m stores are what microsoft needs. They have plenty of products to sell so what could it hurt?

    Also, to simon, I know about 8 or 9 people that have never purchased a Windows OS, but plan on purchasing Win 7 because they loved it so much. Many of my non-geek friends have already installed Windows 7 and they love it, too. Windows 7 is a step in the right direction for Microsoft and if they are going to keep up with the heavy branding of Apple, they need to offer a comparable slick, elegant branding that Apple is so dominant with.

  • W2ttsy

    The problem with a MS store is that they dont make any computers themselves. Apart from their consoles, and input devices, there isnt much else to sell apart from Windows…
    Apple’s main success and the reason why they are so strong is tight integration. They design everything from the hardware and software to the stores and boxes they are sold in. They can role out a genius bar because they only have to train the staff for fixing Apple products, they have machines to sell and play with in the store and have the iPod range. In fact, i’d be guessing that most people go into an Apple store to either play or buy some hardware.

    People aren’t likely to rush out to a “Microsoft store” to buy something they can get at costco or best buy. Apple have prevented many retailers from carrying their range for that exact reason. You have to go to an Apple store, and you have to experience it. “No one can be told what the Apple Store is, they have to experience it for themselves.”

  • former microsoft employee

    Don’t forget that Microsoft develops the XBOX 360 which could easily fill up half of a Microsoft store, if that is the direction they want to go. XBOX Live has over 20 million subscribers alone, so I believe there is a decent sized market for a b&m store if it carried XBOX related products. (And this is something that the company has total control over in terms of hardware.)

    This would not directly compete against apple, but it could help justify the existence or be enough to compensate for other weaknesses.

    Also, I would be interested in seeing them get into the hardware business. Working with a Windows system from Microsoft and being able to bring it into any Microsoft store just like Apple users can would be pretty neat I think. It sure could have an impact on all of the difficulties people have with Windows-based systems.

    There’s a big difference between Apple’s OS and Microsoft’s. Apple’s OS only has to specialize for their own hardware, while Microsoft has to cover the entire PC gamut of technology. That’s huge.

    Ok, I’ll stop. :)

  • rozner

    That Windows 7 launch commercial is horrible. I only made it through the first minute. It’s actually painful to watch.

  • I am probably one of the guys out there who love having the latest release (unless there are reasons for not upgrading). I think about buying Win7 when the RC stops working (June 2010). So far I have not found any thing that bugs me, looks better than xp and everything works.

    Visiting a microsoft store? Not for me, I am here in South Africa and I don’t even think they have thought about us, what to say open one here.

    Though one problem I do have with Microsoft is the price of Win7. Here we will pay 3300 South African Rands (R ). That is about $400. When mac OSX snow leopard was released here, it was only R329. Why the big difference Microsoft?

  • Icespadez

    I think it will be nice for customers to put a face with Microsoft rather than through Best Buy or other stores.

  • I welcome the competition. Having more competition could possibly mean better prices for consumers, especially in my area where lack of choices keeps the price of computers at top dollar. We do have a Best Buy, but unless a computer is on sale, it’s always priced very high. There is no “cheaper” computer store around here.