More than a thousand people crammed into a southern California mall Thursday morning to witness the official opening of Microsoft's second retail store. This may seem a promising sign for a company looking to build buzz around Windows 7 PCs and other products, but not everyone in the crowd was there to bask in the light of Microsoft innovation.
The Microsoft Store at The Shops at Mission Viejo mall in Mission Viejo, Calif. is a roomy space that features wall-to-wall video screens as well as Microsoft Surface tables, according to a report in The Orange County Register. Microsoft COO Kevin Turner was on hand to cut the ribbon at the grand opening, which came a week after Microsoft opened its first retail store in Scottsdale, Ariz.
In July, Turner made headlines when he told Worldwide Partner Conference attendees that Microsoft planned to open retail stores "right next door" to Apple stores. Apple has a store at The Shops at Mission Viejo, but it's currently undergoing renovation and won't re-open until next month, The Orange County Register reported.
Judging from The Orange County Register's video from the event, the atmosphere was lively and exuberant, two descriptions that aren't traditionally synonymous with software. Prior to the opening, store employees led the waiting crowd in Microsoft-related chants, and antsy teenagers squealed with excitement as they waited for the doors to open.
However, the teenagers' excitement stemmed from the fact that Microsoft was giving away free tickets to a concert later that day by Canadian pop singer Justin Bieber. Some teenagers even camped out in line overnight for the tickets, so it's unclear how much of the buzz was due to genuine interest in Microsoft products, and how much was the contrived result of Microsoft's powerful marketing apparatus.
With Windows 7, Microsoft has been trying to reach audiences with which it hasn't had much of a connection in the past, as evidenced by its now-canceled Windows 7 Family Guy sponsorship. The Microsoft Stores, which look very similar to Apple Stores, will give the software giant a chance to capture the attention of younger, mall-roaming audiences.
But, as any mall store owner will tell you, this demographic isn't always looking to actually buy anything during their visits.