Microsoft Gurus a Genius Bar rip-off?

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.

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