Notes from Microsoft’s first retail store: ‘Cheap, disorganized, and poorly-located’ (with photo)

MacDailyNews’ intrepid sometimes-reporter “Joe Architect” went on a reconnaissance mission deep into enemy territory yesterday and he took notes about the Microsoft’s Retail Store “experience” in Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall in Scottsdale, Arizona:

• The mall all area around store rather empty. No line to get in. Keep in mind this is only 3 hrs after opening. Must have run out of “good” freebies. Pile of clear freebie HP printers still at area by “genius counter” or whatever they call it.

• Store was somewhat crowded but not even close to full.

• I would say at least 1/3 people were staff or ms promo folks due to obvious badly-colored logo shirts.

• Staff seemed older than what you see at apple. Not cool hipster geeks. Rather soccer moms and even retirees. “Genius counter” even had older workers – i.e. not helpful seeming geek types.

• Yes, this is a very obvious attempt to copy Apple, but on the super cheap.

• It’s like Microsoft copied the line drawings of the Apple ceiling plan (slot lights, luminous panels), but skipped the quality materials and refined detail. All cheap painted drywall – no metal bands, etc. Plastic luminous ceiling panels with poorly masked florescennt tubes. Also the ceiling is very low for retail. Compared to the Apple Store in Kierland this felt like a cave.

MacDailyNews Note: In all fairness, even if Microsoft doesn’t deserve it, the Apple Store, Scottsdale Quarter is a work of art and a mall store shouldn’t really be compared with it. That said, it sounds like any of Apple’s mall stores would make Microsoft’s look bad anyway – even before the products are placed.

• Big tables like Apple Stores, but made of cheap plastic laminate with wood pattern (vs actual hardwood). Dark brown plastic lam tops to be “different”. Just like zune. Clumsy detailing of legs to top. Display of product does not look “clean” like Apple. “Tasteless” is the word that keeps popping into mind.

• “Tons of cords” on tables. Just like that old iMac ad comparison. Lots of HP crap. HP must have out-paid Dell et al. Hodge podge of black and blue and brown and silver plastic. Makes for Best Buy-like look, but on lighter Apple-knockoff background (vs Best Buy blue shag carpet environ).

• Floor is cheap pergo-ish maple laminate (vs Apple green slate) aka your typical GAP store.

• LCD panels approx 5′ high running length of store both sides. Up high above side counters But nothing on them except repeating win logo. Perhaps a software glitch? Also display band is actually just stacked off-shelf lcds each with thick bezel. May work when you are far enough away but here you are so close any attempt to do big images spanning multiple panels will be very clunky.

• No other signage except ripoff of Apple app grid poster seen bottom right of photo. Truly could not decipher the “organization” of store. Disorganization is more like it. No clarity regarding which area is for this and which is for that. Just seemed like a blur of same junk on every table. Could be deliberate i.e. to confuse.

• Genuis counter seemed small (for assumed need) and the back is glass, so you really cannot see where it is.

• In the short time I was in there (30 minutes) I did not see anyone buying or even carrying anything. No shopping bags seen. No obvious queues at registers or staff with handhelds swipping cards (as you see pretty much constantly at Apple Stores).

• Lastly I would cite the poor choice of location in this mall. On darker lower floor of side leg down a bit from dramatic central atrium (food court/movies). Customers would have to go find it or randomly run into it. It’s really a poor choice as there are plenty of vacancies in better spots, but presumably they cost more to rent (more cheapness on the part of Microsoft).

MacDailyNews Take: Could Microsoft just be doing this for what they think is “publicity” with no intention of actually keeping these stores open and/or seriously building out a network of retail stores? If so, they’d really open themselves up to huge amounts of negative PR when the “closed” signs” go up in Arizona and elsewhere. Why would a monopolist with tens of billions of dollars on-hand not spend the relatively paltry sum it would take to do things right? Of course, we could ask that about Windows, Xbox, Zune, etc., too. Cheapness and/or laziness really seems to be ingrained in Microsoft’s DNA.


  1. I would really like to see MSFT succeed. But this, like many of its recent efforts, is just sad. Despite its cash and market share, it seems MSFT just can not come up with an original idea. 🙁

    MW: ‘moving’ as in that This concept just isn’t.

  2. Have a heart, man. They have lost the battle and they know it. They need to minimize the damage, which includes limiting the cost of the triage. Sometime in the middle of the last century the Boy Scouts taught me to loosen a tourniquet every now and then because a little bleeding is better than gangrene.
    They need to survive until their next opportunity – if there is one – and this is a slow-down exercise. Of course, if they went out of business today, Apple couldn’t ramp up production quickly enough to fill the void. But the Linux crowd could!

  3. My 12 year old daughter went to the Microsoft store in Scottsdale yesterday with 3 of her friends last night. The only reason she went was that they had a concert with Ashley Tisdale there put on by Microsoft for the store opening. Apple generates lines at their store with products and since there is no excitement with Microsoft products, they have to bring in a celebrity to generate buzz.

  4. I am a little surprised to be honest. I thought it would be a slight copy, but they tried way to hard to be the same but different. Like Genius counter………Who do they think they are fooling. They could have at least come up with a new name for that. But this just goes to show you that Microsoft is incapable of original thought. P.C still wants to be like MAC when he grows up.

  5. You forget – there will be lots of Apple customers in these stores just to check it out and look around. I’d certainly go in one and see what its like. I’d probably go every time I hit the mall (I’m a fan of electricity, I guess – Best Buy is one of my favorite non-beer serving stores on the planet, even though I rarely buy anything – the lights, the sound, the technology oooohhhh).

    But the difference is this: Apple’s customers won’t buy in a Microsoft store – it has almost nothing for them (except maybe a copy of Windows 7 – a one-shot for a small percentage). But PC owners in an Apple store continue to buy in record numbers.

  6. BTW: just what is WRONG with the “maple” floors? Looks acceptable to me, and looks a lot like the floor in the Chestnut Hill store. Which also has a “standard mall-store” ceiling and typically (day-time) has an Apple staffer for every two or three potential customers. Of course, most of them are standing around, being helpful mostly when asked (rather than intrusive). Yet, the customers are buying … unlike the MSFT store.
    Enough with the snobbishness. The important factor is the product! And we have it, and they DON’T! Well, nothing WORTH buying.

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