Opinion Brief

The Microsoft Store: Coming soon to a mall near you?

Microsoft executives are reportedly debating whether to open new retail shops. Should they?

In an apparent attempt to mimic the success of Apple's retail shops, Microsoft started opening its own stores in 2009. But the software giant still has just eight locations, with two more on the way, and executives are debating whether to start expanding more aggressively. Most of the stores Microsoft has now "aren't making money," according to Business Insider. But CEO Steve Ballmer likes the idea of opening hundreds of shops, and potentially even surpassing Apple's store count of 300. Should Microsoft give up on its retail ambitions — or open even more stores?

A bigger retail presence makes sense: "Even if the stores aren't profitable," says Jared Newman at TIME, "they provide a showcase" for the tech goodies Microsoft needs to get into customers' hands. Microsoft's Kinect gaming system is "exactly the kind of product that's best seen in person," and the new Windows 8 operating system, a "real showstopper," is due out next year. "Even if Microsoft doesn't need a big retail presence now, it'll certainly want it then.""New Microsoft stores? Not with the same old products"

No, Microsoft can't conquer retail: Apple stores worked because the company "makes shockingly few products," and those products weren't widely available elsewhere, says Harry McCracken at PCWorld. Microsoft, on the other hand, "makes all kinds of stuff aimed at all kinds of people." And its software is run on computers from lots of different manufacturers. That would make it hard to stock outlets and provide good customer service. Plus, Microsoft would run the risk of ticking off important partners, such as Best Buy.
"No more Microsoft Stores, thanks"

If not now, when? Waiting longer to open new stores would be a mistake, says Ed Oswald at Technologizer. A higher-profile network of shops would help Microsoft lure more shoppers — and could help counteract the company's image problems. With the economy still hurting, the construction industry is hungry for business, so while building new stores is "still going to be expensive, it'll be much cheaper than it will be in a few years.""Ballmer's right: Five reasons why Microsoft should open more stores"

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