Microsoft Planning 'Dozens More' Retail Stores

Earlier this week at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C., COO Kevin Turner said Microsoft is going to "build dozens more stores" and is "just getting started" on that effort.

Turner also said the direct contact with consumers that Microsoft gets through its retail locations is invaluable. "[Microsoft Stores] are an incredible learning vehicle for us," Turner said Wednesday at WPC.

At Microsoft Stores, customers can check the latest Windows 7 PCs from Microsoft's OEM partners. Those that buy their PCs from a Microsoft store will get the Signature build, a configuration that's completely free of third party software add-ons unaffectionately known as "crapware."

"If you go to a Microsoft store, you can get the Microsoft Signature build on that PC, which eliminates that third-party software that drives you nuts sometimes," Turner told WPC attendees.

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At last year's WPC, Turner vowed that Microsoft would open stores "right next door" to Apple stores, and in some cases it has followed through on that pledge. This year, Turner didn't indicate where Microsoft will choose to continue its retail store expansion.

All four currently operating Microsoft Stores are situated either in the Mountain or Pacific time zones, and the San Diego and Mission Viejo, Calif. stores are located just 65 miles apart as the crow flies. There seems to be some aversion on the company's part to venturing outside these regions.

Perhaps Microsoft is just testing the waters before venturing into the unforgiving, mall-oriented cultures of the Eastern Seaboard. The real test of Microsoft's retail confidence would be to set up shop nearby Apple's stunningly architected 5th Avenue store, which is open 24 hours a day and serves as one of the world's foremost temples of consumer desire.

If Kinect is a hit in the gaming market, and Windows Phone 7 devices are as amazing as Microsoft says they'll be, these products, in combination with Windows 7 PCs, could provide enough allure to get people inside Microsoft Stores. But there are a lot of ifs here that need to be worked out before this can happen.