October 19, 2009

Microsoft To Open First Store

Microsoft appears set to open its first retail store this week in the Fashion Square Mall in Scottsdale, Arizona.  The move is the company's first step into retail, where it hopes to replicate the success of rival Apple Inc.

Although the store is still boarded up, expectations are high that the opening will coincide with Microsoft's launch of its new Windows 7 operating system next Thursday. A company spokesman would say only that the store would open sometime in "the fall."

Speaking at a public appearance in downtown Boston on Friday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer also suggested that an opening is imminent, but would not commit to a specific date.

"We'll open a couple of stores, try to improve, open a couple more stores," Ballmer said.

"It's very important for us to have a direct connection with the user," said Ballmer, referring to the planned stores, which he said would allow the company to show customers "what you really can do."

Microsoft first disclosed its retail plans in February.  Following Apple's approach, the company hired a former Wal-Mart executive to oversee the stores.

Microsoft's chief operating officer said in July that the company would locate its stores "right next door" to Apple stores.  However, the closest Apple store to Scottsdale is in Phoenix, several miles away.

Should the store open this week, it would coincide with Microsoft's launch of its new Windows 7 operating system, which will be launched this Thursday.

Steven Guggenheimer, responsible for worldwide sales, marketing and licensing of Microsoft's pre-installed Windows systems, expressed hope that such technology would help trigger global economic growth amid a widespread slowdown in consumer spending.

"There was an economic upset. It's had an impact around the world," Reuters quoted Guggenheimer as saying during a Dubai technology conference on Sunday.

"As an industry, we are focused on innovation and the work we do impacts society... we all have hope that things will continue to move forward and that technology will continue to spur growth," he said, adding that with one billion people using computers, the impact would reverberate.

Conference attendees got a brief preview of Windows 7 during Guggenheimer's opening keynote address at the Gitex conference, the Middle East's largest IT exhibition.  The event includes some 3,000 manufacturers and suppliers of electronics and communications technology.


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