Microsoft's move into retail is often portrayed as a defensive move to thwart Apple. But Dana Blankenhorn notes that it Microsoft's move is really about the demise of the tech retail channel.
At SmartPlanet, Blankenhorn writes:
Drive down a suburban highway, or along the margins of any mall, and you find PC expertise confined to sad repair shops without inventory, if you can find any at all. The industry’s retail footprint no longer exists.
Indeed, Circuit City, CompUSA and others have been nuked. Sure, there's still Best Buy, but the shelf space for Microsoft-related products has been squeezed.
It's an interesting argument, but I'd argue chains like Wal-Mart may fill the void. However, Microsoft won't own a whole section and dominate shelf space.
Blankenhorn notes that Microsoft's channel partners are pushing services and lack real hardware knowledge. That's why Microsoft has to go retail. It's unclear whether Microsoft's bet on retail will work, but at least it will fill up some of those vacant retail outlets.
Also see: Microsoft gets its edge back