As part of its $300 million brand resuscitation advertising campaign, Microsoft this holiday season will send legions of Microsoft 'gurus' into retail stores such as Circuit City and Best Buy.
The gurus' task: To help buyers make informed PC purchasing decisions, and to also explain the nuances of the complex and intricate snowflake that is Windows.
"We must deliver a world-class shopping experience that aligns with the brand promise and our online presence," said Bill Veghte, senior vice president of the Online Services & Windows Business Group, in an article posted Thursday to Microsoft's PressPass site.
Although Microsoft says the guru idea is adapted from the Nordstrom model of "personal shoppers," it also sounds like the type of experience one gets immediately upon walking into an Apple store. And, in the opinion of many Microsoft channel partners, that's a step in the right direction.
"This is a good idea, and as long as Microsoft keeps their effort focused on retail and non-commercial consumers, this will help clarify some of the inaccuracies about Vista," said Daniel Duffy, CEO of Valley Network Solutions, a Microsoft Gold partner in Fresno, Calif.
Jennifer Mazzanti, president of eMazzanti Technologies, a Hoboken, N.J.-based Microsoft Gold partner, believes solution providers have the type of intimate knowledge with Microsoft products that would make them excellent in the type of role Microsoft envisions for tech gurus.
"We're the ones who translate on daily basis what Microsoft means to business users," Shine said. But even channel partners who agree with Microsoft's plan say execution and commitment will be of paramount importance to its success.
Andrew Brust, chief of new technology at twentysix New York, a New York-based IT consultancy, says Microsoft faces certain challenges that Apple does not, including a more complex product set, a lack of control over the retail environment, and the need to represent many companies' products.
"To combat these challenges, the gurus will have to really know their stuff, and they'll have to be several cuts above the kids who work at Best Buy and Circuit City," said Brust.
In particular, the gurus will need to be able to clearly explain the differences between consumer products and those aimed at the small business space, a line that some vendors haven't always clearly marked, Duffy noted.
"We still come across clients that have made the mistake of buying a consumer device because nobody ever explained the differences in quality, warranty and performance to them when they made the retail purchase," Duffy said.