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Ten Reasons Microsoft Retail Will Fail

We put our heads together to bring you this list. As former Apple Retail employees, I'd like to think we have some perspective on what works and what doesn't with Apple's retail initiative, and why Microsoft can't hope to do as well. Let's Dive In...

#10. No fanatical fanbase. Yes, there are people who love Microsoft products. But we're talking about a different kind of fanaticism here. We're talking about the type of thing that spawned two Apple-fan movies this year alone. We're talking about people camping out for days before a store opens. Sorry Microsoft, your fans just aren't that wild for your products. Perhaps a possible exception for the xBox. There's a difference between loyalty, and being locked into a system.

#9. No Genius Bar Equivalent. Barring a major shift in how Microsoft handles customer support, there's no way they can create an equal to the genius bar. There are far too many different systems with far too many configurations. People can call Microsoft from the comfort of their home and be told they need to call Dell/Acer/Lenovo for their problem.

#8 No Product To Sell. Microsoft, you don't make computers. It sounds like you won't be making phones either. So that leaves you with Windows, Zunes, optical mice, and xBox consoles. An xBox is easy enough to find. I think everyone who wants a Zune has found one. I don't think people will be lining up to buy mice, and last time I checked, finding a copy of Windows to buy wasn't very difficult.

#7 Alienate Partners. Apple has managed to keep and even grow relationships with Best Buy, Wal Mart, etc. while increasing their own retail presence. Microsoft might be able to keep those same channels happy, but what about hardware makers? Will Dell be thrilled to see Lenovo laptops in the Microsoft store? Would HP be welcome? How do you appease the people who actually make the hardware your OS runs on, if presumably some computers will be present in the store?

#6 Products Aren't Sexy. In the early days, the Apple Stores brought people in simply by the stunning design not only of the stores, but the products as well. These were exciting and new shiny objects that many had never touched before.

#5 What Comes After Windows 7? You could almost sell me on the idea of Microsoft showrooms for Windows 7, and Windows 7 alone. Microsoft seems pleased with the results of their "Mojave Experiment," so I can imagine them wanting to get more people to see/play with their new OS. If you build a store around that though, what do you do after the OS is released and everyone who wants has had a chance to try it?

#4 Dress for Success? Close your eyes. (well finish reading this first...) You've just walked into your local Microsoft store. How are salespeople dressed? Do they wear khakis and polo shirts, leaving you to think you've accidentally stepped into a Circuit City (how's CC doing, by the way?) Do they wear t-shirts and jeans in an attempt to look just like the Apple employees? Do they wear some sort of cheeky Geek Squad-esque costume/uniform?

#3 The Economy. There are two types of computers selling right now: Macs and netbooks. Apparently in bad economic times, some people look for the best value/quality for their money. Those people are buying Macs. Others look for the bare minimum to get by. Those people are buying netbooks. Where does that leave Microsoft? No Mac ships with the Windows OS. Many netbooks use a flavor of linux, and those that do use windows, use XP, or seem to almost begrudgingly have Vista installed. So Microsoft, are you going to try to convince the value shoppers that they need a bigger, more expensive system, or will you try to talk Apple shoppers down to a cheaper computer, a computer which you most likely won't even have in store? Or maybe, just maybe there will be a Mac in there, running Windows 7 through Boot Camp... Hmm... we might have to re-think this whole thing...

#2 Bill Gates is Gone. If Gates had launched this initiative while he was still at Microsoft, maybe, just maybe it would fly. He would've brought a certain geek cred, and he always had a vision of where computing was headed. Sometimes right, sometimes wrong, you always knew he had a vision. I don't know what Microsoft's vision is these days. Apparently it's to look at what Apple's done in retail, and copy it. Which brings us to...

#1 Apple Already Did It. You cannot beat Apple for store design. You cannot beat Apple for buzz in a mall environment. (tangent: one of the secret strengths of Apple is the relationship building it does with other mall tenants. The traffic the stores generate benefits everyone.) Apple has created a formula that while imperfect, cannot be perfected by Microsoft. You don't think the same way. Any company selling an OS in no fewer than five versions cannot be expected to simplify or improve the retail computer shopping experience.


Reader Comments (5)

And there will be likely no compelling reason to visit a MS store because a high percentage of Windows users tinker with their puter and would simply frustrate the MS staff with their tinkering questions, keeping a staff member busy for an hour over minutia which would produce waiting lines. If MS wants to cater to tinkers, it would need to hire Tinker Geniuses, or something like that.

Surely the idea of a MS store would not be for a consumer of the type that Apple attracts, and would be more closely akin to Radio Shack, so just buy out Radio Shack and hang the Microsoft Store sign over the Ratio Shack sign.

February 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterVito Positano

Vito said:
"... it would need to hire Tinker Geniuses, or something like that."

A "Tinker Bell" that would make all of the visitor's frustrations magically disappear!

February 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLynch

All your assessments are "spot on", and "solid". The only psychological reason a Microsoft user would go to a Microsoft Retail Store is reassurance that they made the right decision or that the company is still there to support them. A lot of advertising is done not only to get new customers but to keep old customers— a sort of "misery loves company" in this case! I am sure that when Japanese cars first came to America, American car owners needed the same kind of reassurance.

Microsoft will be with us for a long time. It keeps Apple on it's toes, as Apple is keeping Microsoft on its toes ... but right now, to quote Mel Brooks' History of the World, "It's good to the king"!

February 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbmovie

Microsoft trying to sell to the consumer is rather like a pet food company trying to sell to dogs and cats. The trouble is, a) no dog or cat forks out the money for the food and b) most of them couldn't care less what brand they get.

The vast majority of Windows users are office workers. And I'd be willing to bet that the vast majority of those are clueless about what system they are running. Just out of interest, I asked around. Some told me they were running Windows, a lot said they didn't know and a few had some very interesting answers, "Explorer," "Word," "Excel," and so on. These are not computer users. All they know is one part of one application.

Like the dogs and cats above, these guys don't fork out the money for the computer they are using. The firm does that on the advice of the IT guy.

So what's the point opening imitation Apple stores to appeal to computer challenged office workers suffering from acute computer apathy?

This is Microsoft not only placing its corporate neck in just the perfect position on the block, but giving instructions to the guillotinist on which string to pull to send the big knife down.

I don't want to watch!

February 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Davis

The Mojave Experiment is a fave of mine. The people they used had never seen Vista, I am told, so their reactions are someone expected, right?

Ok, I am done now.

Continued success folks!

February 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGary Seifert

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