While my business card (one of them anyway) does proudly state “Apple Fanboy”, I admit I was excited by a little surprise I got over the weekend while at the Freehold Raceway Mall in Freehold, NJ. At first, I honestly thought it was an advertisement, cleverly painted over a store under construction as it’s a spot that has been available for more than a few weeks now. The part of it that first caught my eye was the Windows Phone. Step back a bit and next to the Windows Phone was an Xbox on one side, a PC on the other. Step back even more and on the bottom, in the smallest print, was a very subtile “Microsoft Store. Coming Soon.” And apparently, that’s only been true since last Thursday.
As someone who has been inside the original – and failed – Microsoft Store (then microsoftSF), I’m actually a bit excited to see the new store coming to Freehold. Sure, you can buy a PC just about anywhere these days, let alone an Xbox, but I’ve never seen a store for PCs that comes even remotely close to an Apple Store. That being said, while The Microsoft Store looks a little too similar to an Apple Store, I think Microsoft badly needs a retail experience – especially one with a good technical support service. Now as I’ve never been in one of the new Microsoft Stores I can’t vouch for just how good they are, I do hope it’s something they’re successful with. I can’t even begin to say how happy I am to see Microsoft actually taking risks again. Take a look a Windows 8. That’s a huge one and to be honest, one that might be a little early to be taking. But still, it’s about damn time. One of the reasons I left Microsoft for Apple was because Apple was the more innovative and advanced of the two. I think Microsoft is starting to catch up – in the innovative department at least. I believe that Microsoft opening their own retail stores with so many other places to buy their products shows that they get it. They lack a centralized place to go to play with things and get answers. They’ve seen how successful Apple has been. They’ve seen the fragmented, inconsistent, disaster of a toy that Android is. While Microsoft doesn’t make their own PCs, from what I’ve heard, the Microsoft Store highlights some of the better ones. And with the very vast PC market, that’s a very good thing. The only PC maker I known of with their own store right now is Sony. I don’t believe Dell does their mall kiosks any more. Microsoft could use a place where people can go and see the better of the bunch. They might not be the cheaper, but having run a PC for eleven years or so, believe me, you get what you pay for.
However, as I am moving back to Philly in just two weeks, it’ll be a while before I can see first hand if the Microsoft Store was truly worth getting excited over. I truly do wish that it is successful, no matter how much it might borrow from Apple’s design. But hell, if borrowing from Apple’s design means creating a successful, Microsoft-branded one, I say so be it. For those wondering where the store will be, if you come out of Nordstrom on the first floor, it will be on your right at the intersection. It’s on the end of the mall opposite the Apple Store. And I think in a space that will be a little bit bigger (any day now Apple that you want to buy the old Borders spot would be fine by me).