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.