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Microsoft Gurus a Genius Bar rip-off?

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Since news came out that Microsoft would be deploying a “Microsoft Gurus” program as part of their $300 million effort to improve their image, they have been consistently compared to ripping off Apple’s “Genius Bar” program.

Microsoft Gurus is program Microsoft is starting up where they will deploy customer-service reps to various electronics retailers such as Best Buy and Circuit City. The purpose of these representatives will be to help potential customers learn how Microsoft’s products “work together” by giving demos and answering questions.

While Microsoft Gurus have indeed drawn comparisons to Apple’s Genius Bar, they aren’t really the same thing.

Microsoft Gurus are pre-sales customer-service reps. They offer no help with your existing products or any sort of real technical support. Their main purpose is to show potential customers “the interconnectedness of Microsoft’s Windows products,” according to Microsoft’s general manager of corporate communications, Tom Pilla.

My first thought on this was that there would be a real conflict of interest having a Microsoft employee floating around an electronics store but Pillas says that Gurus are not paid on commission. Instead, performance is measured by the Guru’s “ability to translate the technology to a language consumers feel comfortable with.” Whatever that means.

I don’t feel comfortable with Microsoft translating anything for me…especially if their standard for good communication is anything remotely close to how they translate their technology with their most recent commercial.

Microsoft has been piloting about 25 of these Gurus for the past 10 months with apparently enough success to expand to 155 Gurus by the end of the year.

What do you think? Is this just Microsoft blatantly copying Apple again? Is there a conflict of interest having a Microsoft employee in an electronics store? Let me know your thoughts.

10 Responses to “Microsoft Gurus a Genius Bar rip-off?”

  1. I don’t blame Microsoft for copying Apple. They know that they need to things better so why not emulate the best. However, I don’t think the Microsoft guru’s are really needed. After all showing customers how products work and what can be done with them is the job of the sales staff working in these electronics stores. Go into any Apple store and you can see that for yourself.


    Actually .. Genius’ are also there to help with pre-sales questions. Not to mention that an Apple Solutions Consultant’s (ASC’s) sole purpose is to answer pre-sale questions and to demo products.

    I am speaking as an Apple Solutions Consultant myself.

    ASC’s can be found around the United States and the program is now expanding in Canada from 8 locations to over 100.

    The job description of a Microsoft Guru is a mirror image of an ASC and mimmicks some of the responsibilities of a Genius.

  3. According to Microsoft, Gurus will help with “PRE-SALES” NOT fix anything. Gurus are nothing more than sales people who have information feed to them from MS. Apple Genius is a REPAIR Technician who is trained and tested in Cupertino to solve problems, troubleshoot, and instruct Apple customers on how to set up Apple products.

    Do not fall for the hype, that they are even remotely the same. This is just another example of Microsoft doing a “me too.” That proves what I always say “Years later and NOT as good.”

  4. @millca: Yeah, but I guess my thought on that setup is that there was a very specific Apple section to the store. Unless all the Microsoft products will be huddled in to one spot separate from other manufacturers, then the conflict of interest is a lot stronger in my mind.

    That is a good point, though.

  5. Actually, when CompUSA was still in existence, there were Apple Specialists that worked the Apple area. I may not be remembering correctly but I do believe they were NOT CompUSA employees but sent out by Apple. So once again, Apple came up with this approach first even though they may have gone away from it now.

  6. “Microsoft Gurus are pre-sales customer-service reps. They offer no help with your existing products or any sort of real technical support.”

    of course, windows looks better when newly installed (if lucky not inflected with virus within 30mins after fresh install), but a mess after few months use. AND nothing those “PC Genius” (i call them IT support) can do other than reinstall your whole system.

  7. @Chris: My Mac seeem’s to work more bettter when it ha’s a surplu’s of apostrophe’s on the screen. :-)

    General comment: I most emphatically agree that placing these CSRs in chain stores that sell other equipment from other vendors is a gross conflict of interest. Criminy, Best Buy and Apple have been developing a close relationship over the past couple of years but Apple hasn’t been placing paid shills in the stores. I figure that if my local BB has one of these “translators” on the floor, then I’m going to put on my Apple t-shirt and wander around the computer section with my MB air, discreetly herding buyers over to the Apple display, answering questions about OS X, generally being helpful and not trying to overload customers with M$ techie talk and “translations.” And I am unanimous in that.

  8. Yup. Windows is a pain in the butt to use…

    How about a recent example… Need to run Sony Ericsson’s cell phone update software? Install, run. Fail.. Needs the latest Adobe Flash software.. Download and install Flash… Fail… Have to go back to a fresh install of Windows and install Flash BEFORE installing Flash.. (no combination of re-installs of Flash or the Sony Ericsson app would work.)

    What a pain.

  9. Their main purpose is to show potential customers “the interconnectedness of Microsoft’s Windows products,” according to Microsoft’s general manager of corporate communications, Tom Pilla.

    Umm… because discovering the interconnectedness of Microsoft’s Windows products is impossible to figure out on one’s own?

  10. Being an Apple Solutions Consultant (aka. Genius) myself, I do indeed believe that this is Microsoft’s way of capitalizing on the success of Apple’s idea’s.

    I am not saying that Microsoft hasn’t paved the way for success in the computer world themselves but they need to stop trying to steal idea’s from Apple and other company’s.

    Professionally speaking, I do believe in competition but Microsoft needs to think fresh and come up with something original that might help catapult them back into the spotlight.