Oct 09

Molecular modeling by Microsoft

You’ve probably heard that Microsoft is opening its own stores, and that they’re taking a few cues from the Apple Stores. Addendum: they’re taking a few cues, the tables and stools, the shirts, the Genius Bars, the high fives, basically everything they can copy without running up against federal cloning laws.

This video, taken at the opening of the Microsoft Store in Scottsdale, is Exhibit A. If it weren’t for the bargain-hunter-ish PCs on the tables, you’d swear you were in Appleville. And if you’ve ever seen an Apple Store opening, you’ll be aghast over the degree to which they have imitated even the Apple hoopla. This isn’t copying. It’s identity theft.

I honestly don’t know how the people responsible can look at themselves in the mirror each morning. Surely there are other ways to get into retail without copying every detail from the people you’re constantly accused of copying in the first place.

Though there is some logic in replicating a proven winner, I’ll be extremely surprised if this works. The Apple Stores have broken retail records because millions of Mac-loving and Apple-curious people literally had no place to go for knowledgeable advice, hands-on experience and service. The stores broke records because, like most of Apple’s efforts, they were inventive. Microsoft Stores are doomed for two simple reasons:

1. PC people have a zillion other places to go to touch the latest models and get technical support: electronics chains, office supply chains, warehouse chains and countless ma-and-pa shops.

2. PC customers are price-driven. Even if they visit a Microsoft Store to try things out, they’ll buy where it’s cheapest — on the Internet or at a competing retailer. Remember, Microsoft itself has been so proudly advertising the mindset of the “laptop hunters.”

It’s just hard to imagine that too many people will feel particularly motivated to visit a Microsoft Store — unless, of course, it’s to join in the merriment on opening day.

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  • and remember… they had the Grand Opening in Scottsdale. nothing against the good people there, but not exactly a Mecca for the PC throngs… i think this is just another
    ‘see? we have _________ too!’ (fill in the blank) moment.

    imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery but it’s also the clearest indication that the imitator doesn’t have any original thoughts and that usually never plays out well… i wonder how the Zune is doing?

    i wonder if Redmond came up with this all by their lonesome or if CPB had a spatula in that pot?

  • Andrew Tonkin

    Not at all surprising. I’d have to add a #3:

    3. From a service point of view, the model is doomed because Microsoft doesn’t control the hardware; they only make software. You know at the Apple Genius bar that “the buck stops here” because Apple makes everything—and is accountable for it all. Apple can train Geniuses to be experts on the few dozen current and recent Mac models. But with the many CPU manufacturers and nearly infinite number of custom (and even user-created) configurations, there will be a whole lotta shruggin ‘goin’ on—and the usual “it’s a hardware problem”/”it’s a software problem” fingerpointing going on between MS and Dell et al.

    Also, will MS offer free repairs and honor the manufacturers’ warranties, as the Genius Bar does? That will be impressive.

    I think the model will be successful, or at least survive for a while (remember Gateway Stores), as the economy slowly recovers. But ultimately it’ll be just another crappy, ugly place to buy PC’s and get them fixed—Best Buy/Geek Squad scooped into a shoebox.

  • ken segall

    EXTREMELY good point, Andrew. I knew there was a third reason :) Yours might actually be the most important point of all.

  • Ken, I am going to make a rash suggestion. I acknowledge that you are my Apple guru and I agree with 99.44% of what you write here, BUT:

    I challenge you to NOT nail Microsoft for a month. It’s just too easy for you. You are way better than this piling on of Balmer & Co. (At least Gates gave us the illusion there was a higher smarter purpose that we peons just didn’t get).

    These Microsoft drive-bys are clearly written in your sleep. Your wakeful intellect can be used to better ad-kind on more universal topics.

    Bring it!

  • ken segall

    Hey, lay off! Actually, I honestly think about this every time I stumble upon another Microsoft goodie. But I also have to go with what’s in the news because next week it isn’t news anymore. Right now happens to be a big Microsoft time. Windows 7 has so many facets, from the parties to the product itself to the marketing. And now come the Stores. So yes, I’m spending a lot of time with Microsoft, but as any bratty kid would say: they started it. Just to prove I can stretch a little further, tomorrow’s topic is … Dell!

  • Andrew Tonkin

    More on this story:

    1) Re my point #3 above, it looks like Microsoft is trying to exercise a modicum of control over the hardware they’re selling, at least. But of course this still doesn’t address the multi-config hardware issues:

    2) It seems there’s a turncoat involved here. The Zune giveaway is just sad. Where are all the people “camping out”?

    And while I’m ranting, yet another bit of dumbness. “Are you ready for Windows 7?” Isn’t it too easy for the consumer simply to answer “no”? Doesn’t the very question create a barrier—”wait, I have to prepare?”

  • to andrew’s point about what service MS offers… that was the biggest flaw in the laptop hunters campaign and always will be when you lead the story from a hardware POV:

    A: it didn’t really matter WHICH laptop you bought. MS OS is on all of them.

    B: it didn’t really matter WHICH laptop you bought. MS didn’t make ANY of them and could cop out forever on what was ‘really’ happening with your new laptop, i.e.; it’s not their fault, call the manufacturer…

  • John Walker

    My initial instinct was to agree with you. The video was painful for me to watch. Such a clone.

    That said, 80% of the folks out there use Windows PC’s. Having a place, *other than Best Buy*, to go to will make it a success. How much value-add it gives Microsoft is debatable, but I think they will be popular and people *will* flock to them.

    My best guess.

  • Don

    Ken, what can I say, but…. you hit the nail on the head with this post!

  • twobyte

    – What, MS store?
    – No, it is just another Apple store, running Bootcamp.

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  • Nigel Burke

    What I also find quite revealing about the video taken in this store, and I hazzard a guess that it is happening in their other stores too even as I write this, is that no one appears to be using any of the products on show. You try getting a moment or two on an iPhone, iMac or MacBook at an Apple Store. Get in the queue! Once the initial party’s over at Microsoft everyone heads on over to Apple.

  • John Perser

    Oh my… we copy when we can’t create.

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