1999 Microsoft Store vs. 2009 Microsoft Store

By  |  Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 2:45 am

It’s official: the first Microsoft Store will be opening on this Thursday at 10am in Scottsdale, Arizona–logically timed to coincide with the launch of Windows 7. Nearly all articles about the company’s foray into retailing (a) point out that it’s a delayed reaction to the mammoth success of the Apple Stores; and (b) mention the fact that Microsoft’s first mall store was MicrosoftSF, which opened at San Francisco’s Metreon in 1999 and lasted only a little over two years before folding. (It was apparently an early victim of the Metreon curse which has since claimed nearly all of the mall’s merchants except for its movie theater, a bookstore, and some of the restaurants.)

Nobody accused Micorosft of aping Apple with MicrosoftSF–because that first Redmondian storefront opened almost two years before the first Apple Store did, and closed a few months after the Apple Stores got rolling. I visited the store several times, but don’t remember it very well, which might be part of the problem; it didn’t have a lot of personality. (If anything, it was in the mode of Sony’s Sony Style stores–in fact, it was actually operated by Sony, not Microsoft.) We’ll see if the new effort takes off–I’m still trying to figure out whether the world really needs a store devoted to the disparate stuff that Microsoft sells.

Here’s a quick comparison of the Microsoft store of 1999 versus this decade’s version, based on resources such as Microsoft’s original press release and a largely favorable piece Salon published at the time. Microsoft seems to be trying hard to keep what’s inside the Scottsdale store a surprise until Thursday, but I’ve pieced together some information and speculation based on sources such as Gizmodo’s leaked concept presentation for the chain.

This T-Grid is a work in progress, subject to expansion and revision:

The stores
The Microsoft Store
The Microsoft Store
First location
The Metreon, San Francisco, in San Francisco’s slightly gritty SOMA neighborhood
Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall, Scottsdale, AZ, in the prosperous suburbs of Phoenix
Opening day
June 16th, 1999, the Metreon’s opening day
October 22nd, 2009, Windows 7’s launch date
Other locations
Mission Viejo, California store opens October 29th; more to come
8500 square feet
7000 square feet
According to Salon, “a kind of Pottery Barn for the computer crowd.” Herman Miller chairs; custom female mannequins, blond-wood-and-metal office furniture
We’ll learn on Thursday, but looks like it may be hardwood floors and an Apple Store-like feel
Signature products
Windows 98, Office 2000, Windows CE, MSN, ActiMates Teletubbies
Windows 7, Xbox 360, Bing, Office 2007, Zune
Non-Microsoft products for sale
Items from 30 companies, including Casio, Lernout & Hauspie, Mattel, Peachtree Software, Philips, Sony, and Symantec
Knickknacks for sale
Microsoft hats, T-shirts, squeeze balls, and stationery
Non-tech products for sale
According to Salon, silk, beanbag wrist rests, etched glass vases and mugs emblazoned with the dictionary definition of “passionate,” cedar “Now and Zen” desk clocks, incense sticks, miniature Japanese rock gardens
Store layout
Twelve “lifestyle areas” such as the Road Warrior Area, the Personal Finance Area, the Business Productivity Area, and the Digital Nervous System Lifestyle Area
Not disclosed but reportedly may include areas for Windows 7, smartphones, “PCTV,” personalization, customization, learning, and connecting
Demo area for WebTV
Most likely not
Offers tech support
Not that I can recall
Yes, apparently, in Genius Bar-like area that may be called Answer Bar, Windows Bar, or Guru Bar
Multimedia trimmings
Sixteen sound zones; six rear-projection gaming stations for playing Microsoft games
Giant digital media wall may wrap around entire store
Acknowledges existence of Apple
Yes, via one iMac demoing Mac software
Quote from Microsoft spokesperson
“Software…it sits there in a box and no one knows what its functionality is until they load it on their computer…Let’s get the software out of the box and showcase it in a lifestyle environment around working, living, learning and playing!”
“We have a billion people that use our technology around the world, yet we’re not always as close as we need to be to them. So, the stores will be that physical presence where people can come in and see our technology and talk to our employees and learn things.”
Quote from mall operator
“Metreon offers a place to indulge your imagination. At microsoftSF you can do just that. Not only is microsoftSF a key part of the world’s most exciting urban entertainment center, but Windows NT -based software is used throughout.”
“It will make a presence, and the technology and the integration of technology that they’ve used within the store … is just over the top and clearly will excite consumers.”
Quote from Steve Ballmer
“We are delighted to be able to showcase in this one-of-a-kind retail environment the entire range of Microsoft software and hardware, as well as the technology of other companies who share the vision of how the PC and the Internet can empower people any time, anywhere. San Francisco and the Silicon Valley are home to the world’s largest and one of the most sophisticated high-tech audiences, so this was the natural place to create this site – dedicated to showing, in an interactive environment, the way technology can enhance our working, learning, living and playing.”
“We’ll open a couple of stores, try to improve, open a couple more stores.”
Celebrity attendees at grand opening
I don’t even know if Bill Gates showed up, but George Lucas visited the Metreon that day

Unless Microsoft decides to try again in San Francisco–it could probably get its old Metreon space back–it may be awhile before I set foot in a Microsoft Store. If you visit one, let us know what you think.


4 Comments For This Post

  1. sfmitch Says:

    I went to the Microsoft store in the Metreon and it was pretty useless. Accessories were the order of the day.

    I can’t see the Microsoft stores doing well financially, but I can see them being a good investment (think of it as a marketing expense) for MSFT.

    There is no way the new stores could be as lame as the old stores.

  2. Oinky Says:

    Microsoft has also been going strong with their online presence as well through their online store — http://store.microsoft.com.

    What’s most interesting is the fact they offer Windows by download which is the only official place that I’ve seen you can do this.

    I noticed that Microsoft posted these up about their grand openings:


  3. Backlin Says:

    I just can’t see how physical stores will help Microsoft. I see it as an outlet-store equivalent of the electronics department at Wal-Mart. I’m sure Windows 7 will be sold at both places, along with being able to find Xbox 360s, Microsoft Office, other software, Zunes (although I couldn’t find the HD model at my local Wal-Mart, but then again, I’m in a rural market) and computers…

  4. Josh Says:

    I went into the Microsoft Retail Store yesterday here in Scottsdale. I’m not a fan boy on either side, but let me say it’s identical to an apple store. Employees running around checking you out with hand held computers. Wearing t-shirts and lanyards with their names. Laptops on tables interspersed with peripherals. Software and accessories in the back of the store. Big glass windows in the front of the store. Complete knock off.

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