The Microsoft Times Square pop-up store has closed up shop, ahead of the February 9 launch of the company's Surface Pro PC/tablet hybrid.
The Times Square store was the closest thing Microsoft had to any kind of real Manhattan-based brick-and-mortar retail outlet. (The pop-up retail store in Columbus Circle in Manhattan is still open.) The Times Square store was the focal point for the Surface RT launch on October 26.
There had been rumors that Microsoft might end up holding onto the prime real-estate and turn the Times Square store into a permanent Microsoft Store. Unlike most of Microsoft's other pop-ups, the Times Square store wasn't a tiny kiosk, but more of a full-fledged shop that showcased both Microsoft's own Surface line, as well as Windows Phone 8, Xbox and some third-party Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets and PCs.
I asked Microsoft when the Times Square store closed (after seeing a tweet from @StevenSandoff claiming this had happened) and didn't get an answer. Instead, I received this statement, attributable to Jonathan Adashek, General Manager, Strategy and Communications with the Sales, Marketing and Services Group (SMSG) at Microsoft:
"Through the Microsoft Times Square holiday store, we had the pleasure to bring customers the unique Microsoft Store experience and the opportunity to engage with technology that impacts the way they live, work and play. The location was intended to support holiday sales of Microsoft Surface and Windows 8, and continues to be an important market for us moving forward. Customers in the New York area can continue to experience the best of Microsoft products and the same excellent choice, value and service at our specialty store located in the Shops at Columbus Circle or any of our nine full line and specialty locations in the tri-state area."
Microsoft also declined to provide any dates as to when other pop-up stores in the U.S. and Canada will close. I did a quick check against the Microsoft Store location site and it seems the other 31 are listed as still open.
Microsoft is planning to sell its Intel-based Surface Pro systems in the U.S. and Canada only. Microsoft officials have said they will offer these machines starting February 9 through all Microsoft retail stores, microsoftstore.com and at Staples and Best Buy in the U.S., as well as from a number of locations in Canada. Microsoft is offering the Surface RT in more countries and via a broader set of retail outlets. (There's a rumor, courtesy of WPCentral, that Costco will soon carry the RT model.)
Microsoft announced on December 26 that it would be opening permanent retail stores in six U.S. cities in early 2013. The six: San Antonio, Texas; Miami, Fla.; Beachwood, Ohio; San Francisco; Salt Lake City; and St. Louis. Several of these were pop-ups turned into permanent stores. This week, Neowin is reporting that Detroit and Honolulu also are poised to get permanent Microsoft Stores.
In late December, Microsoft officials also said they planned to "extend a majority of our specialty store (holiday pop-up) store locations into the New Year." Officials also said to expect the company to transition "some" of the holiday pop-ups into permanent stores "given the great success we've had with them."
In the summer of 2011, Microsoft officials said that Microsoft planned to open 75 new Microsoft Stores in the subsequent two to three years. Officials updated that tally in the summer of 2012, announcing that Microsoft planned to have 44 permanent retail stores in place by the end of its fiscal 2013, which means by the end of June 2013.
Microsoft officials have said limited distribution for the Surface is one reason the company has been reticent to share Surface sales to date (and seemingly a reason for its accelerated timetable for allowing other retailers to carry the Surface RT). It seems kind of odd to me that Microsoft would close its showcase New York City retail store just ahead of the Surface Pro launch, given the company still has no permanent Manhattan retail outlet and still has not announced plans for one.