Microsoft Retail Stores: Do They Need To Copy Apple?

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From an article by Mary Jo Foley:

Microsoft is planning to open the first of its planned retail stores next to existing Apple stores this fall.

While it’s easy to criticize the move, it has its advantages:

  • Apple’s already done the homework, and proved these locations will draw foot traffic for this type of store.
  • Microsoft can immediately imply they’re “worthy” of selling to the same crowd Apple does by setting up shop in the same area.
  • Their stores will be located near shoppers already out looking at electronics.

There are some bad things about it, though:

  • It’s an obvious example of Microsoft following Apple, not leading the industry or thinking for themselves.
  • Being close to Apple will invite comparisons they could easily lose.

I’m not sure if the pros outweigh the cons.

Meanwhile, I’m not clear what Microsoft plans to sell in these stores? If they choose to stock it will “Apple-like” items such as upscale PCs, Zune players, etc. then they can’t tout how they’re so much cheaper than Macs. But if they stock it with “Best Buy-like” cheap PCs then it’ll look like… a Best Buy.

Ultimately, I really don’t see this as a question of location, but rather one of why the heck Microsoft is opening stores in the first place. Having made the decision, however, and with so many electronics chains in trouble, perhaps opening yet another one without nodding to Apple’s brilliance in this area would be even dumber than blatantly copying it.

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4 thoughts on “Microsoft Retail Stores: Do They Need To Copy Apple?

  1. This is a classic example of Microsoft following Apple, without understanding why Apple was successful. Much like the Zune, Microsoft is making a mistake here.

    For Apple, the brick and morter store in high traffic places wasn’t a big risk. It’s initial purpose was for advertising. The few retailers that carried Macs obviously didn’t like Macs. The machines were turned off, not maintained, etc. Most people had no experience with Macs so walking into the Apple store provided an opportunity for people to “kick the tires” so to speak.

    Now, contrast this with Microsoft. Everyone is familiar with PCs and everything Microsoft will sell can be purchased at the nearest Best Buy or equivalent store for a lesser price. What’s the draw for the Microsoft store? To try a PC? Who hasn’t done that? Microsoft isn’t really even a hardware company. I don’t blame them for experimenting with a few stores, but copying Apple’s move just comes off as a lame attempt of playing the “follower” role it is so used to.

  2. The thought of a store filled with FUGLY black and beige boxes with blue screens of death will keep me smiling all day long!

  3. Dad: So son, what are you going to buy with all your birthday money?

    Son: I’m going to the Microsoft store and buy me an Exchange CAL!

  4. I completely agree that it really isn’t clear what they purpose of the stores will be.

    If MS opened a Genius-Like bar (free tech support for what ails your PC), the stores would be CRAZY busy.

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