Friday, October 30, 2009

Microsoft Opens Store in Same Mall As Apple

Microsoft executives have stated that they intend to compete aggressively against Apple in the retail arena, with plans to open some Microsoft outlets in close proximity to those of its hip Cupertino rival. The Shops at Mission Viejo will be the first true test of that theory, as the mall also contains an Apple Store.

(According to the local Orange County Register, the Apple Store in question is "closed for renovations and will not reopen until November." I doubt that. They're probably building a retaliatory iCannon in there.)

The opening itself apparently attracted a suitably massive crowd, lured by first-day discounts and gift bags that reportedly contained a $25 Zune Pass gift card and a sticker. The fact that the store and its local ecosystem will employ around 100 people (that's according to Mission Viejo Mayor Frank Ury, interviewed by the local news) is also probably helping the local mood.

Canadian pop star Justin Bieber will apparently be giving a performance in the parking lot at 5 p.m. PST today. You'd think a big corporation like Microsoft would have the cash to hire someone with a little bit more cachet outside of the tweener audience; I hear Kanye West's schedule is flexible lately.
As I mentioned in the blog post accompanying the Oct. 22 Microsoft store launch in Scottsdale, Ariz., it looks as if Microsoft borrowed some ideas from both Apple and big-box stores like Best Buy in order to craft its retail experience. Its consulting company on the project, Lippincott, evidently felt that the wide-open tables loaded with devices, and a "presentation area" with classes, would be essential in helping Microsoft's stores build audience share.

A lot of comments over the past week have called out Microsoft on the similarities of its stores to Apple's, but, based on the local news stories coming out of Arizona and California, it doesn't seem as if the customers particularly care about Redmond's Cupertino homage. Maybe Microsoft's striking the same vein here as it did with its "Laptop Hunter" ads: Present relatively inexpensive devices with the right sort of functionality, and people will show up with credit cards in hand.

That's what Microsoft surely hopes, at least. Once the hoopla dies down, it'll be interesting to see if the Mission Viejo store can maintain a steady stream of customers--especially with Apple waiting a stone's throw away.

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