So, last week, Sean went to the Microsoft opening in Pacific Centre, Vancouver.
The hoopla from the video was to be expected, as it does with most tech openings or releases. The video provided the usual ribbon cutting, an entire platoon of overly excited employees cheering, those same employees high-fiving people.
And that's the problem. We've seen this scenario so many times before. This is a parody of Apple, and people have been saying that for a long time. Yet nothing much has actually changed.
The fact that the Microsoft store opened is great. It's a good store, and a nice place to browse gadgets and all that. Definitely beats the 'Best Buy' experience. Microsoft has upped its game in terms of becoming more consumer-friendly.
Whether this actually helps Microsoft, is a different story. In fact, there’s much to suspect that these stores actually hurt Microsoft more than it helps them.
So far, Microsoft has 113 stores across only in US and Canada. There’s a store in Finland as well. Apple has 454 stores in 16 countries. Many of these stores compete in close proximities and like clock-work, the Apple Stores always is far more crowded than the Microsoft equivalent. The first store opened in 2009, which was around the time when the Apple Store concept was exploding into the atmosphere. Which means, that we could guess that this is what went on in their heads:
"Well, we have to do something about Apple cutting into our space, so we’ll do exactly what they’re doing."
Instead of continuing the push to make their software world-class, as well as make great products, they invested in copy-cat operative methods like the “Apple Store” concept. They might as well have just renamed their stores, “The Xbox Lounge”, because that’s really the only thing that’s worth looking at in-store out of most MS hardware (which there aren't much of to begin with. Microsoft seems to often forget that their primary focus was always in software).
The thing is, this isn't a very smart strategy. Microsoft can't quite market itself as a designer of mass-market consumer goods when Apple is there closest competitor. There is a reason why those Apple stores are always packed against the scant crowds of the MS Store.
The additional detail here is that majority of people in the MS Stores are there for the Xbox and the Kinect. So it's clear what their focus group should be. But then the MS Store tries to market to EVERYBODY. This is the problem. It would be so much more effective to simply get the aforementioned "Xbox Lounge" going, like some kind of an arcade. That's a market that Apple can't touch yet.
Yet, perhaps, it reflects the industry-wide infection that has to do with over-optimism, consumer-friendliness (over-friendliness), and just in general, hype. This Microsoft Store’s job is to get people excited and intrigued about new Microsoft products, and get them to buy those said products, when in reality, it’s all just too much, while doing much too little in effect. Ultimately, it wasn’t hype that led scores of people to sweep into Apple Stores. It was the products themselves.
It would be tad bit of an exaggeration to say that this one instance reflects an industry-wide panorama, yet we've seen this too many times. Hype, hype, and even more hype is now the standard of tech these days apparently. Not serious self-criticism, not austere research into the needs of their customers (does anyone NEED an MS store?). For an industry that values innovation, it is laughable how unoriginally they operate.