Microsoft launches online store: Is there deeper meaning here?

Microsoft has launched something long overdue: An online store. Yes Virginia, you can download Windows.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Microsoft has launched something long overdue: An online store. Yes Virginia, you can download Windows.

The launch is a bit quiet. Trevin Chow, a senior program manager at Microsoft, announced the "first-party" store on his blog. The software giant's Windows blog also plugs a purchase of Microsoft's Life Cam Show gadgets.

Chow writes:

In addition to shipping fully packaged products to your doorstep, we offer the additional advantage by making available many Microsoft products to buy and download. This is also commonly referred to as Electronic Software Distribution (ESD).

You pay for an ESD product just like you would for one that would be physically shipped to you. The big difference is that after your payment is confirmed, you can immediately download the product to your computer and install it right away. There is no longer any need to pay for shipping costs and waiting for the big brown truck to drive across the country. You’ll be able to enjoy your software almost immediately – all it takes is the download time of the product, which will vary depending on the size of the digital download.

The obvious fear for most users buying ESD products is not having the software on physical media to re-install the product at a later time. Microsoft Store solves this by letting you re-download the product until mainstream support for the product ends. Typically this is 5 years after the product is released.

That ESD wrinkle is reason enough to buy direct--how many times have you looked for some CD or manual with Microsoft's Kryptonian code on it?

Aside from that ESD thing I'm resisting the urge to overanalyze here (Techmeme). Why? Everything Microsoft does gets blown out of proportion. The line of thinking over the store will go like this: Microsoft is screwing resellers, retailers and signaling the death of packaged software. It's over for OEMs and the entire model.

But that's a tad dramatic isn't it.

The reality is this Microsoft is launching a long-overdue direct channel. And personally I like the option. I wouldn't reach too far beyond that. Apple has its own store and doesn't seem to annoy retailers. Dell is the poster child for channel partnerships these days--but it also has a Web site to buy direct. Pick any company and there's a store involved.

The real question is why the heck Microsoft took so long. Oh yeah, probably because such a move would be analyzed to death.

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