As part of my job as a full-time Microsoft watcher, I get a lot of tips about Microsoft from customers, competitors, partners and even Softies themselves. However, ever since I worked for PCWeek more than 15 years ago, I had it drilled into my head that until I could get three independent sources -- none of whom was repeating something s/he heard in an echo chamber -- to corroborate a tip, I couldn't run it as a story.
These days, I see lots of single-sourced tips being posted by bloggers and journalists. More than a few of these are based on a single, anonymous source, with no further identificationto help readers decide whether a tip is likely to be true or not. No "according to a Microsoft partner who requested anonymity." No "so says a customer angry over the latest slip-up, who asked not to be identified." Not even a thinly veiled "according to a person who was not authorized to speak for Company X" (but did so anyway).
This lack of attribution gave me a maybe-not-so-crazy idea. A year or so ago, inspired by the "CrazyAppleRumors" folks, I bought the "CrazyMicrosoftRumors" domain name. I let it lapse. But I recently repurchased it. Why not put the concept to use?
I've launched a series of occasional posts here on "All About Microsoft," where I take a single-sourced tip that I can't find two other independent sources to verify and run it as a "rumor." I'm not going to do this with just any old tip; I am going to pick and choose ones where I have faith in the tipster's batting average and/or believe the tip makes a lot of sense. I will clearly label these posts as "(Not so) Crazy Microsoft Rumors," so readers know exactly what they're getting.
If you want to send along any rumor candidates, just use the e-mail form at the bottom of my blog. All tips I receive are considered confidential, so don't worry about including your real name (if you want to do so).
I've run a couple of these rumors on my blog so far. One, about Microsoft's plans for a Zune HD2, still is active and -- I believe -- likely to be proven true in 2011. The other, about Microsoft's involvement in Facebook's new messaging system, was right on the money.
Today's "rumor" has to do with the Microsoft brick-and-mortar stores, which have been slowly multiplying over the past year plus.
Currently, Microsoft has stores in San Diego, Calif.; Mission Viejo, Calif.; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Lone Tree, Colo.; Oak Brook, Ill.; Bloomington, Minn.; and Bellevue, Wash. Microsoft's strategy with these stores has been to locate close to Apple stores in each city and use the stores as a showcase for new PCs, Xboxes, Kinects, Windows Phones, games, apps and other consumer goods.
According to one of my sources, who has had a very good accuracy track record, Microsoft may field as many as six new Microsoft stores in 2011. On the short list of likely sites: Houston, Orlando and ... at long last ... New York City.
As readers of my blog know, I have been advocating for a NYC Microsoft store for some time now. Those of us in the city without access to a car (and/or a driver's license) have very few options for checking out multiple models of Windows PCs from more than just a couple of vendors. We are at the whim of the few remaining retailers that offer PCs.
This reality was brought home again this week during Microsoft's New York City holiday showcase. (Microsoft held the same event in San Francisco a week ago or so.) Because there are no retail outlets in either of those cities where potential customers can come in and kick the tires of Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Samsung, Panasonic, Toshiba and other vendors' Windows 7 PCs, Microsoft had to rent space, haul in lots of equipment, fly in execs who could show off the machines to press and analysts (and ply us with food and drinks).
Update: In case this is not entirely clear: I am not saying the showcase was a proxy for a store; it was a press/analyst event. But the event reminded me of the obvious lack of some kind of mega-retail store that offers a variety of Windows PCs.
At Monday night's event, I saw a few nice newish Windows 7 PCs at the December 6 event that I hadn't seen before, including the Acer TimelineX 1830 ultraportable, the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge and U160 netbook, the Samsung SF510 "Shark," the super-light Panasonic ToughBook C1, and the $9,999 Origin "Big O" gaming rig with an Xbox 360 built in. (Cool new Windows 7 slates? Nope, as expected, nothing to write home about.)
I bought my Windows 7 PC (the ASUS UL30A) over a year ago without having the chance to actually hold it or type on its keyboard. I had no idea how much crapware would be preloaded on it. I only found out about its existence via various blogs I read and took a chance on it after reading tens of reviews. That is a terrible way to buy a new PC.
If I had wanted an Apple machine, I would have had a choice of three Apple stores in Manhattan -- all within walking distance -- where I could have test driven a variety of models. I'm not a fan of the Apple store experience, but hey, at least those stores exist. My source didn't know where in New York the Microsoft Store will be located. If Microsoft follows protocol, it will be either on Fifth Avenue, the West Village or Soho, where the Apple stores are located.
I've asked Microsoft execs repeatedly when a Microsoft Store would come to the big Apple and was told by various folks that they had no idea. If my tipster is right and it's in time for Holiday 2011, I wonder what the "big draw" will be next year, given this year it's Xbox/Kinect. It will be too soon for Windows 8 PCs and too soon for Windows Live next (both rumored for 2012 deliveries).
Where do you think Microsoft should put its next Microsoft Stores? Or are you in the camp that thinks Microsoft Stores are nothing but money down the drain?