Get ready to rumble! Microsoft joins Samsung and Apple, setting up brand-centric mini-shops within Best Buy
Microsoft today announced plans to set up Windows Stores inside 500 Best Buys around the United States and 100 in Canada. These stores will be heavily Microsoft-branded sections within Best Buy where customers can fondle all manner of Redmond-borne products — from Windows 8 PC and tablets to Windows smartphones to the Xbox — under the watchful eyes of Microsoft-trained sales associates.
Microsoft isn’t the only tech company to set up shop inside Best Buy. Earlier this year rival Samsung teamed up with Best Buy to open 1,400 Samsung Experience Shops, which feature the company’s smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other products. Apple too has long had a partnership with Best Buy for dedicated shops within many of the electronics retailer’s stores. However, the Windows Stores will be larger and more prominent, taking up between 1,400 and 2,200 square feet. What’s more, the alliance will add 1,200-plus Microsoft-trained sales associates to Best Buy’s staff.
Microsoft’s rationale for teaming up with Best Buy is clear: It gives the company a much-needed platform for putting its latest and greatest products in front of consumers who have soured perceptions of Windows Phone and Windows 8 — but little to no firsthand experience.
“The Windows Store offers a large-scale, hands-on customer experience that will show customers how Windows and Microsoft devices and services can make it easier for them to work and play,” said Tami Reller, chief marketing officer and chief financial officer of the Windows Division at Microsoft.
There are risks, of course. Among them, PC makers may not take kindly to the fact these miniature Windows Stores will include a section dedicated to promoting the Microsoft Surface. Microsoft’s relationships with some of its hardware partners have chilled over the past couple of year, stemming from the company’s decision to build its own Windows 8 tablet and the blame it’s placed on PC makers for disappointing Windows 8 sales.
Perhaps the greatest threat is the potential for a plague of fanboy turf wars at Best Buys that offer a Windows Store, a Samsung Experience Shop, and a dedicated Apple section. If TV commercials have taught us anything, it’s that users will even disrupt a wedding over other peoples’ choice of mobile platform. Best Buy may have to pad its security budget to keep the peace. On the plus side, some rivals may forgo fisticuffs in the printer section for spontaneous, brand-centric epic rap battles.