This is a post I thought I wouldn’t be writing for a very long time, if ever. A couple of weeks ago, I got the chance to visit the Microsoft Store in Freehold Raceway Mall, Freehold, NJ that I wrote about before. I can’t believe I’m saying this but Microsoft, well done. The Microsoft Store in Freehold royally kicks the Apple Store down the hall in the ass. I’m not saying that because it’s a bigger store, nor because it was significantly less crowded, nor because I got a pretty generous store credit for having my iPhone get smoked by a Windows Phone (Apple, you really need to build translation into the OS already), but because it was a store I liked. If I were a PC, it’s a store I’d be a regular in. Plain and simple, it was what a tech store should be: open, interactive and inviting.
Building a Kinect into a wall I believe is an absolutely brilliant idea. While the ones at the store were being used to just play games, they would make for some damn good product info screens. And yes, I would take one over an iPad Sign. However, the fact that every wall in the store was a game made the Microsoft Store a hell of a lot more fun than any Apple Store I’ve been in. It’s inviting. It’s colorful. It’s dynamic. As nice as the stainless steel and backlit walls at the Apple Store are, they get pretty damn boring after a while.
At the Apple Store, I can talk about a product on display for a pretty decent amount of time, but I probably would have to have who ever I was talking to crowd around me to use it thanks to the one product display table. The Microsoft Store? Pick a table. Any table. Microsoft had plenty of each product on display and in a number of different environments. Windows Phone? Play with it at the main Phones table, then take it for a spin with some accessories, and then top that off with an XBox. At Apple, I can picture using something in an environment. At Microsoft, I could see it.
The one thing I cannot grade Microsoft on, however, is staff. Save for that one that smoked my iPhone (how’s that translation coming Apple?), I didn’t interact with any. I didn’t need to. I was a Mac in a PC store and even though I think Microsoft is finally starting to get their act together, I still like my Mac. A lot. I really think Microsoft is on the right path with Metro, but I think it’s a little early. Touch still isn’t as commonplace as it damn well could be. Windows 8 could change that, but maybe only because it’s a pretty damn big disaster area with a mouse and keyboard. Overall however, in the past year I have begun to be impressed by Microsoft again. But, there are still some areas they do better than others. I think the next five years for both Apple and Microsoft will be interesting ones to watch.