Scottsdale, Ariz. - Microsoft marked the launch of Windows 7 yesterday by opening its first retail store and adding PCs to its direct-sale assortment of software and peripherals online.
The brick-and-mortar showcase, located in the upscale Fashion Square shopping mall, here, carries laptops, netbooks, all-in-one PCs, Xbox consoles, Windows platform mobile phones and what Microsoft describes as "one of the largest selections of third-party software titles in any store."
Yesterday's opening was highlighted by an appearance by actress Ashley Tisdale and an address from Microsoft's chief operating officer Kevin Turner.
A second company store will open next Thursday, October 29, in Mission Viejo, Calif.
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Microsoft described the stores as "the latest in a series of initiatives to engage more directly with customers and improve the experience of purchasing and using Microsoft-based technology."
"Our customers have told us they want choice, better value and great service when shopping for technology, and that is what we will deliver through our Microsoft stores," said retail corporate VP David Porter in a statement.
To that end, the store features live displays and four distinct technology areas, or zones, "to showcase what's possible with the full Microsoft brand," he said. Zones include a gaming area replete with seating, controllers and a 94-inch screen.
Laptops are centrally displayed on large cedar tables with seating, the company said, and all-in-one PCs are connected to Zune media players, Xbox consoles, headphones and widescreen displays to demonstrate how all the products work together to create a multimedia experience.
The store also has a Microsoft surface table computer that can be used to compare carrier rate plans and create original ring tones for wireless devices. In addition, customers can personalize products by etching names, logos and images onto surfaces through a service called Skin-It.
Customers who purchase PCs will also receive a 15-minute tech session to set up their passwords and networks, and tailor their browser, e-mail and other applications to their preferences.
In a statement, store manager Cheryl Hibbard said the in-store experience was designed to elevate customer choice, provide more value and deliver great service.
Porter added that the retail stores will also be a draw for manufacturers. "Once we open the first stores and people see what we're about in terms of showcasing the choice, highlighting the value and providing a full service experience for customers, I believe the supplier base is going to want to make some investments and figure out what they can move into the store," he said.
Meanwhile, the company has expanded its online assortment with a modest selection of Windows 7-loaded desktop, notebook and netbook computers from 10 manufacturers including Acer, Dell, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, Sony and Toshiba.
The online store, located at www.microsoftstore.com, is also carrying third-party software titles for the first time, and is offering an expanded selection of PC accessories.