by: Idris Mootee

Microsoft last week announced it’s plan to start opening retail stores everywhere in the country, people immediately think of Apple stores. But what is Microsoft going to sell? Microsoft makes very little of it's own hardware unlike Sony. But even Sony’s retail strategy is questionable. The Sony stores are so boring. Remember those IBM stores that existed 10 years ago? Even the Nintendo store in NY City is nothing more than a showroom.

There’s very little reason for Microsoft to have its own stores. Ok you have the Xbox360 and some mobile stuff, what else? Microsoft said it has hired David Porter, a 25-year Wal-Mart veteran, to head the retail effort. Most recently, Porter was at DreamWorks Animation, heading product distribution.

Expect to see Microsoft evangelists walking around in the store in Window Ts with some Windows mobile gadget. The stores won’t ne white…as it will be too Apple. I was in an Apple store today to pick up a new MacBook Air as mine is schedule for repair, I see long lines of people, some shopping and some just hanging out there who knows what they are doing. This is not going to happen with Microsoft. Having a store doesn’t make a company hip. Let me try to imagine the unique store experiences. Here are three ideas to start:

Instead of Apple's sheer walls of glass and white décor with friendly staff in colorful Ts, Microsoft's stores will have steel and metallic design with Windows color accent, and the staff will wear different colored golf shirts. With each color representing Starter, Basic, Premium, Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate. Make sure you talk to the right person otherwise they will keep referring you to others.

Instead of a "Genius Bar" Microsoft will offer a “Stress Bar.” It will be staffed by Microsofties trained in the art of making life more complicated and fixes that often lead to more problems. The store will offer Windows branded painkillers. There is a security device and will display warning on the big screen such as “Windows had detected that you are Mac users and not welcomed in this store.”

Store hours are pretty unpredictable, it will generally stick to mall hours but at any given time the store randomly shuts down instantaneously for no apparent reason. A sign will be posted outside “Windows encounters an error and needs to shut down.” Kind of pop-up stores hours with no real pop-ups.

Sounds fun.

Original Post: http://mootee.typepad.com/innovation_playground/2009/02/designing-the-microsoft-retail-store-experience-here-are-three-good-ideas.html

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