There seems to be a debate at Microsoft whether or not to build more stores. A few bloggers here and here have voiced their opinions for and against the matter. I fall on the side that they are not building them fast enough! I wonder why Microsoft feels that they have to build these mega expensive stores to compete with the Apple stores. There are lot of vacant commercial property that they can retrofit with the bad economy we are in so there is no need to go for 8000 sq. ft. spaces. The stores donâ€™t have to be opposite or close to Apple stores either.
I am amazed that one of the concerns is cost and overall profitability. This is a company that makes billions of dollars in profit every quarter and if we are to go by the Xbox example, they were willing to lose billions of dollars upfront in order to gain a long term goal of building a viable gaming and entertainment device. I think stores are a wise investment in that consumers can get to experience Microsoft first hand, and get informed answers and solutions to their questions from knowledgeable representatives, who are hopefully better trained than ones found at big box stores like Best Buy.
These stores should also be geared to showing the Microsoftâ€™s three screens and a cloud vision rather than selling computers or gadgets per se. Show the customers the connected home, with a Windows Home Server appliance at the heart system serving media files and providing backup for all the familyâ€™s computers. An Xbox and a Windows Media Center HTPC should also be part of the set up. Basically, borrow the concept from real estate staging techniques. Help the customer envision how all the various products act as one instead of seeing them as separate disconnected products.
Not only could they showcase products currently in the marketplace, what about including things like the Surface 2 table( which they do), Project Gustav and other Microsoft researchâ€™s projects in which they can get feedback from real people as they interact with those projects?
Lastly this would be also the place to showcase Windows Phone 7 and all its prowess. I think the carrier stores for the most part fail miserably at this endeavor. It would therefore be a nice venue for Microsoft to make their case for why one should buy a WP7 device. Ideally, they should be able to buy the phones from the Microsoft store. If that isnâ€™t possible, the customer will at least have enough knowledge and first hand experience that when they are confronted by a Microsoft-hating sales rep a their local phone store as they most likely will, they can withstand the pressure and make informed decisions free of fear and doubt.
I for one vote for more stores as quickly as possible! 1000 sq. ft. should be enough for most most stores. The point is to give the consumers an experience rather than how much in sales the enterprises will bring in at the locations themselves. They should consider this as advertising so use some of that multimillion dollar advertising budget to finance the projects. It will be the best money they ever spent.