Microsoft isn't giving up on its retail efforts. Thursday the company disclosed a deal with Best Buy under which Microsoft will open Windows stores-within-a-store in 500 Best Buy locations across the U.S. and another 100 in Best Buy and Future Shop stores in Canada.
The move is Microsoft's latest effort to boost retail sales of Windows PCs and tablet computers, Windows phones and its own Microsoft Surface tablets. The new Best Buy locations will be in addition to the 68 Microsoft stores the company already operates around the country.
"As we said earlier this year, retail is a priority, and this partnership with Best Buy is a prime example of our commitment to the customer experience in evaluating, experiencing and enjoying Microsoft devices, and the software and services that connect them," said Chris Capossela, Microsoft chief marketing officer, in a blog posting.
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Microsoft will use the new stores to sell its own products, including software such as Office, the Xbox game controller and Surface tablets, as well as Windows PCs, tablets and phones from other manufacturers.
The Windows stores inside Best Buy will range in size from 1,500 square feet to 2,200 square feet, averaging about 1,900 square feet, Microsoft said. Microsoft will help train some 1,200 Best Buy employees who will staff the new stores and help customers try out Windows products.
Test stores are being installed now with the first official Windows stores up and running later this month, according to the company. The plan is to have all the Windows stores installed by early September.
Best Buy is also adding a Windows-specific section to its online store, Microsoft said. And the two companies will jointly undertake marketing campaigns around the holidays, back-to-school and other seasonal events.
Capossela, in his blog, said the partnership with Best Buy goes beyond other stores-within-a-store arrangements and is a "department-level takeover within Best Buy stores." Windows products will be prominently featured throughout the rest of Best Buy, with Windows phones getting top billing in the phone department, for example, and Windows tablets in the tablet department.
The marketing executive said Microsoft remains committed to its Microsoft stores, although he didn't say whether the new Windows stores in Best Buy would slow the planned expansion of the stand-alone Microsoft stores.
"So Microsoft ... is intent on teaming up with Best Buy, a retailer who every industry pundit has tagged for death. Who cares?" said Glen Coffield, president of Smart Guys Computers, in Sanford, Fla., in an email.
"I have seven cell phone stores within one mile of my main retail store and they all tell me the same thing -- Windows phones are not selling -- Android and IPhone are," he said. "For the record there is not a single Microsoft software product that I can make a profit on."
Microsoft executives have said its long-range strategy is to become a device and services company. While the Xbox product has been successful, Windows-based phones and tablets lag behind Apple's products and devices based on Google's Android mobile OS in those markets. And Surface tablet sales are reported to have fallen short of Microsoft's expectations.
PUBLISHED JUNE 13, 2013