Compared to last year, Microsoft hasn't been as splashy with the brick-and-mortar store story around this holiday season.
Yes, Microsoft did forge a partnership with Taubman Centers to offer Windows-centric experiences in 15 malls across the U.S. for the holiday season. Still, I'd started wondering if Microsoft had pulled back from its retail store push, and was counting on Best Buy and some of its other third-party retail partners to pick up the slack.
But it looks like the company isn't stepping away from building more stores, after all.
In 2013, Microsoft opened a total of 35 specialty (usually kiosk-type) and full stores, according to an "Official Microsoft Blog" December 19 blog post. The grand total of Microsoft North American stores is now 83, the Softies said. Microsoft also confirmed today where its next three stores will be opening in 2014:
When Microsoft announced plans to open its own stores in 2009, it patterned itself after Apple, with large, standalone stores, complete with their own tech-support areas (Answer Desks, rather than Genuis Bars). The strategy at that time was to open these stores as close as possible to Apple Stores.
With the launch of Windows 8, just in time for the holiday 2012 selling season, Microsoft opted to open more than 30 holiday pop-up stores. A number of these have morphed into "specialty stores." These tend to be much smaller, often times occupying little more than a kiosk in a mall. They offer a much smaller selection of "curated" Microsoft products, with a heavy focus on Surface and Windows Phone.
At the very start of 2013, Microsoft closed its only full-size Manhattan, NY retail store. I know I sound like a broken record, but there's still no full-size Microsoft Store in Manhattan (just a kiosk in the Time Warner Center), which means there's not a great place for folks to compare the variety of Windows PCs and devices.
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 (and seemingly full-sized) retail stores in place by the end of its fiscal 2013, which meant by the end of June 2013.
There are still no Microsoft brick-and-mortar stores outside North America, in spite of rumored 2013 debuts.