Microsoft takes a leaf from Apple with store gambit
Microsoft has long been accused of copying the computer innovations of its smaller competitor Apple. Now it is also copying parts of Apple's retail model, dpa reported.
The software giant plans to start its own chain of retail stores highlighting its products, following the success of Apple's 251 stores in engaging customers and boosting Apple's profile.
The Microsoft announcement on Friday did not include details of the retail rollout but it will not be the company's first attempt to open up a retail shop. The company opened a Microsoft store in Sony's Metreon centre in San Francisco in 1999, in which it showcased technology from Microsoft and its partners, but the store closed in 2002.
The new store strategy will be headed by former Wal-Mart executive David Porter and will sell computers installed with Microsoft software and other products, Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner said in a statement on Microsoft's website.
The stores are also expected to promote new operating system Windows 7 and updates of Windows Live and Windows Mobile, as well as Microsoft's Xbox 360 video game and Zune media player.
"We're working hard to transform the PC and Microsoft buying experience at retail by improving the articulation and demonstration of the Microsoft innovation and value proposition so that it's clear, simple and straightforward for consumers everywhere," Turner said.
"This is an exciting time with our strong line-up of upcoming product releases," Turner said. "There are tremendous opportunities ahead to create a world-class shopping experience for our customers."
The decision follows a 300-million-dollar advertising campaign that Microsoft launched last year to improve the stodgy image of the company and its products. The move comes as Microsoft suffers along with other companies from the economic downturn, which last month forced it to announce the first mass layoffs in its history, amounting to a total of 5,000 jobs.
Electronics retailers have been especially hard hit by the downturn with Circuit City announcing its bankruptcy last month. Specialty computers stores also have a mixed record with attempts by Dell and Gateway to operate their own shops all ending in failure.
The only exception is Apple, which operates 251 retail stores - with 41 outside the US, that employ 16,000 employees and bring in over one quarter of Apple's overall profits. Apple says that its stores are key to popularizing the company's products, which now account for over 10 per cent of all computers sold in the US.
Apple chief executive Steve Jobs has said that over 50 per cent of the customers who visit Apple Stores have never owned a Mac before.