A highly detailed proposal for Microsoft’s stores leaked online late Friday afternoon, and if it’s real, Redmond’s first foray into retail appears to be following the usual Microsoft formula: Roll up the best ideas of others and muscle their way into our wallets, if not our hearts. If you weren’t already depressed about the state of retail, Microsoft isn’t peddling the ailment that’ll cure us.
The PowerPoint presentation (naturally) takes us on a journey of “Emily,” a hot mom, for lack of a better term, through the Microsoft retail experience. Highlights include many of the same features we parodied last October as being extremely tired retail cliches: There will be an “Answer Bar,” a ginormous video wall around the whole store, community areas, and of course, plenty of computers to play with “Microsoft’s innovative technology.”
Let’s quickly take these one by one:
Guru, eh? Real original. In the company’s defense, Microsoft Genius would have been an even bigger oxymoron. How about wizards? You could have staffers inbig cone hats that also happen to resemble dunce caps, which is whatthis whole idea is: Stupid. Much like the whole retail “bar” concept, which is so played out, I am waiting for a “concept” restaurant to offer customers a “Bar Bar.” Simply schedule an appointment online and you can talk to a snooty person in a hip t-shirt who may or may not fix your mood.
Video Wall: Unless you’re Amish, you’ve probably seen a video screen before. I don’t understand why companies think this is so cool, but they sure do care that theirs is bigger than anyone else’s. A middle-aged company like Microsoft can’t drive a Porsche, so I guess this is their only other option.
Community Area: If I’m tired, I’m more than happy to sit down in your store for awhile on one of these benches. But let’s not pretend that there’s a community of Microsoft fans who are going to gather in your store. And if you can’t get it naturally, you can always create contrived ones: Read the media wall slide and you’ll see that the plan calls for “moments of “Inclusive Exuberance” in the store. Maybe everyone will vomit in unison from being surrounded by flickering video screens.
Interactive kiosks: I actually love this idea. If Microsoft had had these stores last spring when I bought a Vista-enabled PC (that I returned 12 days later), I could have saved myself a lot of trouble.
To return to the serious matter at hand for a moment, the proposal focuses on Windows 7, Surface, PCTV, Xbox, and its Mobile products, although don’t worry, Excel fans! It does appear that every member of Microsoft’s happy, sexy family of products will be on sale or display in some way, shape, or form. I wish them all the best.
Little Shop of Horrors