Making good on promises to improve the Windows buying experience in existing retail stores, Microsoft and Best Buy announced on June 13 that the pair will be launching dedicated Windows stores inside Best Buys.
The store-within-a-store will be in 500 Best Buy locations across the United States and in more than 100 Best Buy and Future Shop locations in Canada. The new stores will be opening between late June through early September 2013. A couple of test stores are launching today, Microsoft officials said.
Microsoft and Best Buy are jointly investing in the new stores, though they are not disclosing the amount that each plans to spend.
The new Windows stores will range in size from 1,500 square feet to 2,200 square feet. They will showcase Windows-based tablets and PCs, Windows Phones, Microsoft Office, Xbox, and more, according to Microsoft. They will include a standalone table featuring Microsoft Surfaces, a dedicated table for Windows notebook PCs and a center table with Best Buy staff picks of all kinds of Microsoft- and OEM tablets, PCs and all-in-ones, Microsoft execs said.
Best Buy has agreed to make its entire computing department in participating stores into Windows Stores. There still will be dedicated Apple, Samsung and Google stores in various Best Buys, but they will be located off to the side in the 600 participating stores, Microsoft officials said.
"You can fit 10 Apple stores or five Samsung concept stores in the space we're going to have for the Windows Stores," said Chris Capossela, Chief Marketing Officer of Microsoft.
Microsoft and Best Buy also are committing to add more than 1,200 Best Buy-employed, Microsoft-trained sales associates in addition to the ones already working in Best Buy. There are currently only 100 Microsoft-trained specialists across all of Best Buy's U.S. and Canadian stores.
Capossela said Best Buy also is commiting to stock Microsoft products in other areas in its stores that make sense. For example, the Best Buy phone department will include some Windows Phones in its slots. The home theater centers are likely to include Xboxes.
Microsoft and Best Buy plan to take "elements" of what the pair are doing to improve the Windows buying experience into the other 800 Best Buys in the U.S. and Canada which will not get dedicated stores, Capossela said. The pair also will be mirroring the Windows store experience online on the Bestbuy.com/WindowsStore site.
Microsoft's Chief Financial Officer of Windows, Tami Reller, said earlier this year that Microsoft believed it could improve the sales experience for Windows-based PCs and tablets by not only growing its own family of Microsoft Stores, but also by working with existing retailers like Best Buy.
Capossela didn't have anything to say about when or whether the company may strike similar store-within-a-store deals with other retailers. They also didn't have more information on when Microsoft may expand this program beyond the U.S. and Canada. He said the new Windows store initiative didn't mean Microsoft had any plans to curtail further rollouts of its own dedicated stores, of which there are currently 68 in the U.S. and Canada.
"Best Buy is still the No. 1 PC retailer on the planet," Capossela said.
Update (June 14): A couple of related questions answered (at least in part).
Where are the first test stores opening this week? Rochester, Minn.; Fort Worth, Texas; and Louisville, Texas, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed.
Will Best Buy be offering more/any "Signature" PCs (those that are crapware-free)? Microsoft officials said this will be up to Best Buy.
One of my readers asked Best Buy and received this response: "We have developed deep partnerships for BBY exclusive product that strive to deliver better configured and performing products to customers that are specifically tailored from our OEMs to our customers only at BBY." I am reading that as possibly less crapware may be on the Windows PCs and tablets in the new Windows Stores, but it's doubtful we'll see crapware-free devices.