The Apple Store is a shrine for all things Apple. I'm not a particularly big Apple fan but even I can't help but be impressed every time I visit one of the shrines. But can the Redmond giant take the Apple Store experience and make it apply to all things Microsoft?
Microsoft seems to be off to a good start. First off, it seems to be willing to openly model the stores after Apple Stores (cue photocopier jokes ...), even down to a Genius, ahem, I mean Guru Bar. Microsoft, it seems, is going as far as to poach Apple staff.
But will it work? Can Microsoft duplicate, or recreate, or reinvent, the Apple Store experience?
I'm not too sure.
While I'm certain that the stores will attract a lot of attention, both from consumers and the media, it's hard to see Microsoft Stores being the public face of Microsoft in the way that Apple Stores are for Apple. Apple is in a privileged position where 99% of what is sold in its stores is Apple branded goods. While Microsoft Stores will certainly focus on Microsoft branded products, major products such as PCs are going to be produced by third-parties. That brand dilution will mean that it's hard for Microsoft to have the same level of control over the experience that Apple does.
Then there's the Guru Bar. I've never been to an Apple Store when the Genius Bar wasn't busy, and Macs are supposed to "just work." I hate to think how overworked Guru Bar staff are going to be. Not only that, but they're going top have to be proficient in PCs and other hardware from countless vendors. That's a tough gig that's going to be the cause of a lot of grey hairs for support staff.
My guess is that Microsoft will be happy to lose money on the Microsoft Stores as long as they help raise brand awareness, particularly of Windows 7.