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.