Motley Fool's Tim Beyers has a suggestion for Microsoft's Big Redmond-branded retail stores: Bring more of the Web into the living room. In other words, forget about, "improving the articulation and demonstration of the Microsoft innovation and value proposition" (real words, believe it or not, from Microsoft's announcement) and focus on showing users how Microsoft technologies can bridge the PC to the living room.
He suggests showing off multiple networked Xboxes, WiFi-enabled Zunes "tricked out with related audio gear," and Web content like World of Warcraft and streaming movies showing on an HD TV via Windows Media Center.
He suggests Microsoft offer their own brand of Windows Geniuses (my words for the concept, not Mr. Beyers's or Microsoft's) that can show users how do home entertainment installations based around Xboxes or PCs.
It's great advice, but Microsoft is incapable of visualizing such concepts, let alone executing them. Oh, sure, they have a Wal-mart executive in charge of this project. He'll no doubt be able to bring all that great Wal-mart merchandizing and cool caché to bear on the problem...
No, I guess I'll stick to the idea that Microsoft is incapable of visualizing such concepts, let alone executing them.
My reading of Microsoft's plans is that they think having Windows experts in a retail environment will show people how awesome Vista or Windows 7 really is. My reading is that they think the problem with Vista is not that Vista was built to meet Microsoft's needs instead of user needs, but that Vista is simply misunderstood. My reading is that they think they can keep the same thing from happening to Windows 7 if they can simply control the message, like Apple does.
I may be wrong about all that, but when looking at Microsoft's track record, my analysis is on sound footing. I think they've seen how well Apple has done with its retail stores -- how it has used those retail stores to its advantage -- and they think that they really need to do the same thing. Worse, I think they feel that if they can do the same thing, they'll take control of the message back from Apple.
The problem is, however, that they can't do the same thing that Apple has done. they won't even be able to come close. They're going to set up these stores to show off Windows, and no one is going to care. They're going to show off the Zune, poorly, and no one is going to care. If they were to even try to offer Windows Geniuses, they would be beset by endless queues of unhappy Windows users looking to get their yearly reinstall of Windows.
Even if they followed Mr. Beyers's excellent advice and had those Windows Geniuses targeting Microsoft PC-to-Living-Room-Bridge-Technologies, they'd still be beset by endless queues of unhappy Windows users.
It's just a disaster in the making. Tim Beyers' has some excellent rough ideas for Microsoft, but Big Redmond is going to simply make a mess of the whole thing. They should listen to him, but even if they do, these retail stores are going to be an even worse flop than the Zune.
In research note to clients obtained by The Mac Observer, Alan Krans of TBR offered an excellent breakdown and analysis of Microsoft's retial initiative. In that note one of his most poignant observations is that Microsoft has to accept that it can't be David. Microsoft is Goliath, the giant of the computing industry. The company can't be scrappy, it can't be the underdog, and it is likely to never, ever be cool.
The Apple envy Big Redmond has been so keen on displaying for all the world to see is pointless, and the company needs to accept its role of Goliath and move on; make the best of it.
Microsoft-branded retail stores showing off Windows is not making the best of it, with or without the help of a Wal-mart exec.
Maybe they should hire Tim Beyers. That might actually worry me.