This morning, Microsoft revealed that it will build 500 new Windows Stores in the United States, and 100 in Canada, inside of partner retail locations. Best Buy gave Microsoft a list of its highest-trafficked stores, which in turn will build its own stores inside.
Consider this a rejuvenation of the Big Box retailer. TNW spoke briefly with Microsoft’s Chief Marketing Office Chris Capossela following the news. What follows is the gist of our discussion.
Averaging 1,900 square feet, the first test Windows Stores are kicking off shortly, and the larger push should be wrapped in time for the back to school sales effort in September. Or, Microsoft is building itself a massive multinational retail footprint in a single go. The paltry 68 Microsoft Stores that exist are perhaps useful for Microsoft, but have little to match the scale of the 1,140,000 square feet of new floor space announced today.
Each Windows Store – poor Windows 8, having to share the moniker – will have two heavily trained gurus to staff it; however, these will be Best Buy employees, and not Microsoft denizens. Capossela stated this is an important distinction.
Don’t fret, however, there will be more than two persons to run the up to 2,200 square foot installations; normal Best Buy employees will be on hand as well.
Why does Microsoft need deeper integration into the world’s largest PC vendor? It’s a new age, and Microsoft needs to make a new argument. Or, as Capossela puts it, we’re playing the Game of Ecosystems. It’s “Windows v. iOS v. Android,” in his estimation, and to explain why its offering is top – in its own view – Microsoft needs more space.
To explain why the platforms that share the Windows core are a compelling end-to-end experience, you need to show how a Windows tablet can interact with an Xbox, and how a photo taken on a Windows Phone device will propagate to all your hardware that runs SkyDrive. It’s not a simple discussion of RAM and hard drive space.
Microsoft and Best Buy both want to sell more PCs, and Microsoft has the money to fund a push like this. Better the PC sales process, dump funds into training, and attempt to construct a real narrative that may resonate with consumers, and hopefully watch the sales roll in. That’s the wager.
The kicker to this is an unknown: how much can Windows-based hardware improve before the next two key sales cycles? We’ll see far more touch-based machines as time goes along, but if Microsoft wants this effort to have impact in calendar 2013, its OEM partners have work to do. At Build later this month, we’ll see more about how Microsoft plans to bring Windows 8.1 to smaller form factors, which could bolster the larger Windows hardware game.
Apple has more than 400 dedicated stores to its name. Microsoft’s Best Buy push will help it close the gap, but Apple has mini-stores as well. Physical store wars between digital platform companies: it’s a strange time in technology.
Top Image Credit: Blake Patterson