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.