Microsoft Launching Retail Stores

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft is launching its own dedicated retail stores in hopes the move will allow them more scope for hands-on demonstrations of products. David Porter, a former executive from Wal-Mart and DreamWorks, has been hired to oversee the project.

Porter will not only be in charge of the design and operation of stores, but must find suitable locations for the 'small number' of stores which Microsoft plans to open at first.

The firm says "The purpose of opening these stores is to create deeper engagement with consumers and continue to learn firsthand about what they want and how they buy." (Source:

Gurus vs Geniuses

The move will raise comparisons with rival Apple, which has more than 200 stores of its own, complete with expert staff known as 'Geniuses' to offer technical support. The sleek design of the stores has helped promote the stylish image of the Mac.

Microsoft's move into retail comes just six months after it began advertising for 155 'gurus' to work in third-party stores such as Best Buy. That role only involved answering questions about Microsoft products rather than technical support.

It's not yet certain whether the Microsoft stores will offer technical support. The firm has also yet to decide whether to sell hardware in the stores. While that would seem a logical move, it could be politically tricky if manufacturers thought particular brands of PC were getting undue prominence in the stores.

Microsoft has apparently been considering the retail idea for some time and even has a 20,000 square foot warehouse at its Seattle base which it has used to try out different designs for a store. (Source:

The timing of the plan is interesting. In theory, this could be the worst possible time to launch an electronics stores, given the economic climate and the recent collapse of Circuit City. However, the increase in business failures means Microsoft may find it easier -- and even cheaper -- to get their hands on valuable retail locations.

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