Tag Archives | Microsoft Store

Ballmer’s Right: Five Reasons Why Microsoft Should Open More Stores

As Harry noted earlier, the Business Insider’s Matt Rosoff has the news of an internal debate with Microsoft on the future of its retail stores. The gist is this: CEO Steve Ballmer and COO Kevin Turner are itching to push full steam ahead and take on Apple by vastly expanding Microsoft’s retail network. However others in the company have convinced them to hold back, citing the expense.

Thus, we’re left with a small network of nine stores (with another on the way), all but three of which are on the west coast. There’s a good chance a majority of consumers don’t even know Microsoft even has a retail strategy.

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Here Come More Microsoft Stores

Microsoft is apparently pleased enough with its four existing retail shops to build dozens more Microsoft Stores in the future.

Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s chief operating officer, revealed the plans during last week’s Worldwide Partner Conference, and Softpedia just picked up on his remarks. Turner didn’t give specifics on when or where Microsoft will open its next batch of retail stores, but we do know that Bellvue, Wash. location is on the way.

From Turner’s comments, it seems like Microsoft values the experience of interacting with customers more than any direct profits gleaned. He noted that the stores have been “an incredible learning vehicle for us” and said “direct contact with consumers in the community is awesome and it’s an awesome thing for us to do.”

The existing stores — in Mission Viejo and San Diego, Calif., Scottsdale, Ariz., and Lone Tree, Colo. — are quite Apple-like, with big tables full of tech products, roving employees and a counter for tech support. (It seems that Microsoft’s failed efforts at cool remain intact.) They also have some unique features, like Microsoft Surface and the ability to order a PC game and have it printed on demand.

In the near future, Microsoft could really use more retail stores for two major product launches. One is Kinect for Xbox 360, a motion-sensing camera that goes on sale in November. Given that Kinect requires roughly six feet of room according to Amazon, I’m not sure how many other retailers will want to dedicate the floor space to hands-on demos. Microsoft, on the other hand, is already showing off the technology at its existing stores.

The other product is Windows Phone 7. At any other retailer, the guy behind the counter could recommend an iPhone, Android phone or Blackberry to customers. Microsoft’s going to want a place to pitch Windows Phone 7 face-to-face.

So when Turner says “we’re going to build dozens more stores,” that ought to be sooner rather than later.


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Yes Microsofties, Apple In-Store Sales May Be Down, But…

Microsofties could barely contain their glee when this video made the rounds of the Internet over the weekend. As you can see, it shows a tale of two stores: the Mission Viejo Apple store practically barren while the Microsoft Store in that mall (yes, the one with the dancing employees) is buzzing with activity.

Some of us probably brushed this off as an isolated incident, as Apple really does not have a blockbuster product this holiday season to draw the crazed Black Friday masses in. But according to Piper Jaffray Apple analyst Gene Munster, his research is showing that slowness at Apple Stores may have actually been the norm.

About 8.3 Macs per hour were sold at retail that day at stores visited by Munster’s team, well down from the 13 per hour rate last year. However, it would be fair to note that Best Buy’s Apple “store-within-a-store” has expanded significantly and a few more Apple Stores have opened since last year.

(Some of Apple’s partners were also offering much better discounts on Apple products than the company was, too…)

Before Redmond starts dancing in the streets, take this into account. Analysis of Apple’s online store performance shows 39 percent year over year growth in sales. This outperformed the entire e-commerce sector by three times. Munster says that this online jump should be more than enough to offset any losses at retail.


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Dear Microsoft: Stop Trying So Hard

Maybe it’s just me, but these days Microsoft seems to be trying as hard as possible to be cool. Obviously shaken up by the less-than-flattering image Apple’s Get a Mac ads have given it, everything it does these days seems just contrived to draw attention to itself so it can say, “Hey look! We can be cool too!”

Look at the company’s recent moves: everything it has done lately has been in response to Apple. Windows 7? Inspired by Mac OS X — even something some within Microsoft are prepared to admit. Microsoft Stores? Strangely Apple-like, their Geniuses are called “Answer desk experts.” Even their commercials these days are direct responses to Apple branding.

But one thing you won’t see Apple doing (or needing to do for that matter) is drawing attention to themselves, like the folks in Mission Viejo, Calif. seem intent on doing. I’m sorry, this is just bizarre. See for yourself.

This is why Apple succeeds where Microsoft fails: it doesn’t need gimmicky schticks to sell its wares.

Personally I would have walked out when this started. I’m there to buy a computer, not see some sideshow.

Either you like it or you don’t is Apple’s way. It also inspires an aura of confidence in itself, that its products sell themselves without any need for pomp and circumstance. Its no coincidence that the most successful products are a little cocky in their advertising: the confidence is transferable to the consumer.

Microsoft seems not to have figured this all out yet. When it does, somebody please let me know.


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For Gamers, the Microsoft Store’s a Rip (and a Mend)

Microsoft_Store_LogoThe Microsoft Store stole plenty of ideas from Apple, but you definitely won’t find services for gamers in the Apple Store.

Destructoid’s Conrad Zimmerman was close by for the Microsoft Store’s grand opening yesterday, and he scoped out a few features for Xbox 360 and Games for Windows customers.

The neatest thing he found was on-demand printing of PC games. It works exactly like it sounds: Use a touch screen kiosk to browse Microsoft’s PC software catalog, toss the ones you want into a virtual kart and alert one of the store’s roving, Apple-esque minions. All the printing’s done in the back, and four minutes later, you’ve got a disc and box, complete with labels, cover and instruction manual.

The system allows Microsoft to carry an unlimited stock, and, well, it sounds kind of fun. I wish there was a similar system for Xbox 360 games, but unfortunately the store is sticking with boxes on a shelf for those (though Zimmerman says the selection is healthy).

Another service that should be appreciated, but not loved, is the ability to bring in your Xbox 360 for repairs. If it’s a basic problem, such as a faulty power brick, Microsoft’s service techs will repair it on-site. Otherwise, you’re at least saved the hassle of finding or paying for an appropriate shipping vessel when suffering the Red Ring of Death.

The store also has five demo stations for Xbox 360 games, with their video projected onto the walls. Not revolutionary, but essential. Zimmerman wrote that roughly 15 percent of the store is dedicated to video games. So I guess only 85 percent of the Microsoft Store is an Apple Store clone.


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Microsoft Stores Won’t Fall Far from Apple’s Tree

Microsoft StoreWhen Microsoft opens its retail stores this far, look no further than your local Apple store to find one. The software giant has designs to open many of its store in close proximity to its rival, according to reports.

Microsoft announced its intention to open retail stores in February. It placed David Porter, a new Microsoft corporate vice president and 25-year Wal-Mart veteran, as the executive in charge of its retail endeavors.

The notion that a Microsoft store could succeed has faced skepticism. Apple sells complete systems; whereas, Microsoft primarily remains a software company. Porter is working with Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices Division, but throwing an Xbox in a window doesn’t exactly replicate the shopping experience of the Apple store.

When Microsoft announced its intentions to open store, I wrote that selling software in retail stores should be about as successful as opening a video rental business in 2010 (and made a crack comparing its stores to Wasabi flavored ice cream). My colleague Harry McCracken believes that a Microsoft store makes as much sense as a Procter & Gamble store.

Without having been privy to Microsoft’s plans, I still feel that way. I recently stopped by the Apple store at Fifth Avenue in Manhattan (the one with the giant glass cube out front) to exchange a faulty iPhone, and was amazed by how psyched people were to be giving their money to Apple. That store alone clears nearly $500 million a year in sales.

What’s more, it’s located across the street from Central Park, and it was a beautiful day when I visited. People seemed to be just as happy inside of the store as they were strolling by the park. Anyone out there want to argue that Microsoft customers have the same affinity for that company’s products?


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