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Microsoft Now Selling Stupid, Too

http://www.fool.com/investing/value/2009/02/13/microsoft-now-selling-stupid-too.aspx

Tim Beyers
February 13, 2009

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) has hired a former Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) executive, David Porter, to help it create a line of retail stores.

So that's what it's come to? Mr. Softy's Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) envy is about to be made real as Everyday Cheap Software? Talk about the dumbest idea ever.

Microsoft, for its part, touted the move as a means to improve customer engagement on forthcoming products. "This is an exciting time with our strong lineup of upcoming product releases including Windows 7 and new releases of Windows Live and Windows Mobile," Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner said in a company press release. Continuing:

We're also working hard to transform the PC and Microsoft buying experience at retail by improving the articulation and demonstration of the Microsoft innovation and value proposition so that it's clear, simple and straightforward for consumers everywhere. [Emphasis added.]

So, Microsoft's retail stores will help show off ... Windows? That's a funny way of expressing Apple envy; the iEmpire's own stores are designed for playing with Macs, iPhones, and iPods.

Partnering with Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) could help to replicate this experience -- maybe -- but even then, I doubt it'd lead to anything more than an incremental sales improvement. There just isn't a pressing need for engagement when you control close to 90% of the market for computer operating systems.

Apple's brand was well-respected and well-known, but for most consumers, it was ephemeral before its retail stores arrived. Their playground format transformed gawkers used to glass-cased displays into hands-on testers and, ultimately, buyers.  

Retail was a perfect fit for Apple, in other words. Not so much for Microsoft, whose customers are:</