The theme of Microsoft's latest ads is "Windows Everywhere"—and if you visit a Best Buy store in the near future, you'll certainly understand why.
Best Buy will be partnering with the software giant to add stores-within-a-store to 500 selected locations within the United States, plus another 100 more within Future Shop and Best Buy locations in Canada. And the size will be in your face as well: 1,500 square feet to 2,200 square feet, on par with the size of the homes into which those PCs will be installed.
Inside each "store" will be a mixture of Microsoft devices: Windows-based tablets and PCs, Windows Phones, Microsoft Office, the Xbox console, and more. Microsoft said that each space will also include examples of how Windows services straddle those devices, and showcase the latest ultramobile Windows-based PCs, both from third parties as well as its own Surface. The Best Buy stores will be installed from late June through September.
The idea is to put Windows back in front of shoppers' faces in time for the preview and eventual (re)launch of Windows, with Windows 8.1. Microsoft is rolling out the preview release of Windows 8.1, sometimes known as "Windows Blue," on June 26, at its BUILD conference in San Francisco. But it's also been on a media blitz of sorts, spacing out the new features of Windows 8.1 in a bid to attract media attention, launching ads, and generally promising to meet nonplussed consumers halfway.
Microsoft signalled its intentions in early May, when Microsoft Windows marketing chief Tami Reller told The Wall Street Journal that Microsoft was embarking on a strategy to engage with its customers once again. Two points in that revised stategy included, according to the Journal, "helping people overcome obstacles to learning the revamped software, [and] altering the shopping experience for consumers."
That's exactly what the in-store boutiques promise. From a retail perspective, Best Buy is simply pushing a trend that former Apple retailing chief Ron Johnson tried at JC Penney: Let third-party brands design their own showcases for their products. (JCP fired Johnson in April, after Johnson's big bet to eliminate discount pricing failed miserably.)
Microsoft didn't say, but it's almost certain that Microsoft is funding the store-within-a-store concept, propping up the struggling Best Buy. Microsoft has also made a $2 billion investment into a key partner, Dell, demonstrating what it will do to keep its Windows PC ecosystem humming along.
What's different about the Best Buy experience? Support and staff, one of the keys to Reller's turnaround strategy. An "interview" with Microsoft chief marketing officer Chris Capossela described the push as a "takeover" of Best Buy.
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