Microsoft Reveals Plan to Add More Retail Stores

Is Microsoft's announcement just a small addition to a boutique, consumer research push, or the start of serious competitor to the popular Apple stores?

Microsoft plans to open two more of its branded retail stores, which will bring the total number of outlets to four. Earlier this year Apple reported it had 283 Apple Stores.

"We can confirm that we plan to open Microsoft Stores in Denver, Colo. and San Diego, Calif.," a Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) spokesperson said in an e-mail to Thursday.

The two newest locations will join the two existing stores already up and running in Scottsdale, Ariz. at Scottsdale Fashion Square and Mission Viejo, Calif. at the Shops at Mission Viejo. Those first two stores opened last fall.

While Microsoft verified the cities it has chosen for the next two stores, however, little more information was forthcoming, including actual mall locations and when they are planned to open.

"We have nothing more to say at this time," the spokesperson said.

Microsoft first disclosed it was planning to open its own string of company-branded stores in February 2009.

The software giant has been criticized by some for all-but-outright-copying Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) branded retail outlets, with their genius bars and free form retail space.

Also, a senior Microsoft executive went so far as to suggest last summer that the company is looking to open at least some outlets "right next door to Apple stores."

But analyst Stephen Baker said criticism that Microsoft is copying Apple is misdirected.

"I don't think Microsoft's strategy has anything to do with what Apple is doing," Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD Group, told "I don't think the goal of Microsoft is to take customers away from Apple Stores and I don't think Apple cares about Microsoft's stores.

"There are only so many different ways you can do retail and everyone steals from each other. The best retailers aren't unique but an amalgam of what works best."

Also, Microsoft officials have repeatedly said their plans are not as grandiose as Apple's chain of stores which are broadly distributed across the U.S.

For instance, last fall Apple opened a store in the shopping mall beneath Paris' famed Louvre museum.

Whereas Apple has opened hundreds of stores, however, Microsoft has said that its intent is to get a better feel for what its customers want by having a few boutique outlets. The first two Microsoft stores opened last fall.

However, Microsoft's ambitions may be more aggressive than it's let on so far. For example, the company hired a heavy hitter to head up its retail gambit, luring away David Porter from DreamWorks Animation SKG, where he previously had headed worldwide product distribution. His official job title at Microsoft is corporate vice president of retail stores. West Coast bureau chief David Needle contributed to this article.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

Tags: ecommerce, Microsoft, retail, stores

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