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Summary:

Microsoft is counting on a turncoat to help jump-start its recently-announced efforts to compete with Apple on the retail store front. Former VP of Apple’s Real Estate department, George Blankenship, has been confirmed as a consultant attached to Microsoft’s retail efforts, which should bear fruit beginning […]

msretail

Microsoft is counting on a turncoat to help jump-start its recently-announced efforts to compete with Apple on the retail store front. Former VP of Apple’s Real Estate department, George Blankenship, has been confirmed as a consultant attached to Microsoft’s retail efforts, which should bear fruit beginning this fall.

Blankenship is responsible for shaping the way Apple chose to place its inaugural retail locations, along high traffic routes in places with extremely high property values. The gamble was that being in upscale shopping centers would offset the high lease price of the store locations because it would attract bigger fish, or shoppers with more money to spend and more inclination to spend it.

That’s apparently the approach Microsoft wants to copy when setting up its own brick-and-mortar chain, which will obviously carry hardware from a variety of manufacturers, since it doesn’t make any computers. Those third-party partners might be interested to know that Microsoft’s apparent goal with its shiny, new, expensively placed stores won’t actually be to move product, but to showcase it.

AppleInsider cites an earlier leak as suggesting that Microsoft will be using the storefronts more as an environment for hands-on demos and product showcasing than as a place to aggressively sell product. I think it realizes that it will have a hard time staying competitive with the wide range of online and traditional retailers who sell its products, many of whom have much more leeway with regard to pricing than Apple generally allows its authorized resellers.

In a world in which ignoring advertising is becoming easier to do (TiVo, ad blockers, consumer resistance through overexposure), Microsoft might be on to something with a brick-and-mortar retail approach to raising brand awareness. The Apple Store, after all, is an iconic monolith in the mind of the American consumer, owing to the unity and uniqueness of its design. Let’s see if Redmond can come up with something equally evocative.

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  1. Renting at the most expensive locations and not selling very much sounds like very expensive advertising!

  2. Sony tried this with their Sony Style retail stores. And while they actually had products you want to see and feel, I don’t remember many visitors at checkout.

    1. So true. Case in point is Lenox Mall in Atlanta, GA. The Sony Style store is dead (assuming its still in business) and the Apple store has what appears to be more traffic than ANY store in the mall.

  3. Lets remember that Dell tried to do the same. The problem is, Microsoft like Dell and Gateway before them will have an uphill battle trying to make a boutique environment with commodity goods. Apple’s goods are not a commodity which is why they were able to be successful.

  4. I wonder if microsoft will have employees like the apple genius?

    1. @ bill: Now there’s a contradiction in terms (Microsoft…genius).

  5. Howie Isaacks Wednesday, July 22, 2009

    This will be entertaining. Dell tried this in Dallas at Northpark Center one floor above, and across from the Apple store. It didn’t do well. Consumers can test drive and buy Windows at Best Buy, Fry’s… anyplace that sells computers. Why would they go out of their way to visit a Microsoft store?

  6. Microsoft – an increasingly pathetic lack of innovation.

  7. Microsoft spends its advertising money downing Apple but when it comes to business strategy, it’s all about belated importing Apple’s ideas, but having them fail in fire because the very ideas Apple creates cannot work in Microsoft’s corporate environment. Yet, Microsoft never realizes this, and so becomes a millstone around the neck of its shareholders.

  8. When the MS store concept was first announced, I couldn’t believe it was as dumb as it sounded–surely they had something in mind. But no, it’s as dumb as it sounded. Living in Seattle and knowing some MS employees, I’ll let you in on a secret: it’s GM all over again.

  9. Microsoft Becoming Apple With First Retail Store, Online PC Sales Thursday, October 22, 2009

    [...] like the whole premise is designed more around showing, rather than selling, as early speculation suggested. Microsoft is clearly pushing the experience, [...]

  10. 10 Questions for Tesla’s New (& Apple’s Former) Retail Chief Friday, July 9, 2010

    [...] of his career at Gap, joined Apple in 2000 — the year before Apple opened its first store. As TheAppleBlog has explained, Blankenship was responsible for “shaping the way Apple chose to place its inaugural retail [...]

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