By February 14, 2009

Microsoft stores aim to encourage Windows shopping

image The thrust of Microsoft’s efforts to reclaim control over its public image and counter the perceptions planted so successfully by Apple involves trying to connect with consumers on a more personal, less monolithic, level. The many faces of the “I’m a PC” ad campaign was one step. The next involves showcasing Microsoft products where the masses gather (or at least where they used to) — the malls.

Undeterred by the dismal retail climate, Microsoft has hired David Porter, a 25-year veteran of Wal-Mart and most recently head of worldwide product distribution at DreamWorks Animation, to oversee its own chain of stores. Porter will start with a clean slate — his first tasks are to determine the number, location, design and launch timing of the outlets. But the general idea is in place: “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,” said COO Kevin Turner. Porter’s job may also include some delicate diplomatic dealings with the company’s retail and hardware partners. Best Buy, for instance, might be irritated by the implication that a better sales experience can be found at a Microsoft store. And Redmond risks offending some PC vendors and other equipment makers who may be left out of the product mix.

But as Robbie Bach, head of the Entertainment and Devices Division, explains it, the initiative isn’t aimed so much at competing for sales as buffing the brand, and that makes it different from Apple’s retail mission. “Apple’s approach was about distribution,” he told the Seattle Times. “People forget that when they entered their stores [in 2001], this was quite a while ago, they didn’t have distribution for Macintoshes, so they created their own distribution. We have plenty of distribution. These stores for us are about building our connection to customers, about building our brand presence and about reaching out and understanding what works and what improves the selling experience.”

Looking at the checkered history of tech outfits that tried self-branded retail can’t be encouraging. Only Apple has really succeeded, while efforts by companies like IBM, Gateway, Sony and Palm struggled. And Microsoft’s one previous retail experiment, the microsoftSF store in San Francisco’s Metreon Sony Entertainment Center, survived only a couple of years before closing in 2001. But the company is convinced that its problem is not with products, but preconceptions, and it seems determined to fight that battle hand-to-hand. Now if only everybody would stop making all those jokes.

via Mercurynews by way of Harry Myhre

Posted in: Phones

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Seasoned tech blogger. Host of the Tech Addicts podcast.
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