VARs On Hand For Microsoft's First New York Retail Store Opening

Microsoft Hits Long Island

Microsoft opened its first two retail stores in New York on Sept. 28, giving the software giant 25 locations nationwide, with several more scheduled to open in the next month in advance of the release of Windows 8 in October.

The new Huntington Station, N.Y., location on Long Island opened with a celebration of music, technology and more as several local solution providers scored VIP invites to hear more about how they might leverage the space for their own use.

Here's a look at the Long Island opening and what VARs had to say.

The Waiting Game

A large crowd of several hundred people gathered for the opening at the Walt Whitman Shops, numbers usually reserved for new product launches. Microsoft's next big release isn't until next month for Windows 8.

Retail Strategy

Ted Ladd, director of public relations, corporate communications, at Microsoft, said the new retail store will showcase how Microsoft products all interconnect now and in the future.

"It's also a place to get direct feedback from customers, which we share to partners and other retailers, and where we can test out new concepts of how to merchandize and share our learnings," he said.

Partner Connection Program

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced the Microsoft Store Partner Connection Program, where its retail stores can form relationships with local solution providers for services opportunities. Several Long Island VARs at the store opening said they're looking forward to hearing more.

Microsoft stores have a first-tier answer desk service for questions such as how to install an anti-virus program or reset a password, but the company wants to build a community of partners around each store to deliver higher-value services, Ladd said.

"We might get an SMB to come in and we can help with our Answer Desk service, but if we get something like 'Can you install network attached storage or provision Office 365?' That's where we'll need help. We're recruiting [nationwide] right now for those partners. The program is nascent. We have business development managers in stores that are assigned to build out business solutions." Pictured here are some third-party OEM Ultrabooks available at the store.

Expansion Coming

Microsoft is aggressively expanding its retail presence in anticipation of its Windows 8 launch next month. The Long Island store is its 27th in the U.S., and Microsoft expects to open six more by Windows 8 launch as well as 32 more temporary stores for the holiday season.

The Microsoft stores will be looking to partner with members of the Microsoft Partner Network. In addition, VARs that have attained the Small Business Competency are particularly well-suited candidates, Ladd said. "We don't want just any partner. It should be someone deep on the Microsoft stack," Ladd said.

Here, a DJ spins some tunes outside the store for the waiting crowd.

Community Connection

Microsoft gave away $1.5 million in software donations to three local organizations as part of the grand opening. Microsoft has a community relations manager in every store whose job it will be to bring non-profit and other organizations into the store, Ladd said. Microsoft recently launched a YouthSpark initiative to offer opportunities to kids and young adults, including job shadowing and other entertainment programs.

"The space itself is open to the community. We will have training sessions on products. Some nights you might come by and see the gaming community on Xbox Live," he said.

Three, Two, One ...

Microsoft executives cut the ribbon and raise (actually lower) the curtain to their new retail store in Huntington Station, N.Y.

Meeting Place

Robert Kratzke, president of GlobeNet Solutions and a vice president with the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners, said the store could be helpful to his business for meetings.

"If we wanted to have a meeting for customers before [at a Microsoft facility], we had to go into the city. It is hard to get there, especially for smaller partners. Now we have access to a store where we can educate and better prepare customers around Microsoft products. It's also a good place to demo the products, even the consumer products because people get the look and feel and want to take it to the next level [into business]."

Sharing Thoughts

Here, GlobeNet's Kratzke, right, poses with Shashank Munim, vice president of business development at Infosys International, Plainview, N.Y.-based VAR. Like other solution providers at the opening, Munim also was intrigued by how his business might leverage the space. "I'm curious to find out how Microsoft will assist channel partners with this hub serving small businesses on Long Island. They have a theatre where partners can host events," Munim said.

Neighborly Relationship

Michael Carey, president of I T Systems Group, a Melville, N.Y.-based solution provider, came by for the opening.

"I'm a local Microsoft partner right down the [Route] 110 corridor, a couple miles down the road. I met with the store's business development manager," he said. "This store will pull traffic for sure. And as people buy phones [and other products], the store can't service everything. We hope to fill in the gap. The theatre is a cool alternative to having a seminar in a hotel. I would look to show it off."

Cool Factor

Sharji Samuel, director of technical pre-sales at Avanade, at left, stands with two Microsoft employees.

"I'm bringing my kids later to show them that Microsoft is getting cool -- that Apple is not the only kid on the block that's cool," Samuel said. "[Microsoft] needs to be successful at marketing, so things [like retail stores] can help. They've got a game changer coming in October [in Windows 8 and supporting devices]"

A VAR's Take

David Tan, left, and William O'Leary, both of Chips Technology Group, a Syosset, N.Y.-based VAR, attended the opening to get more details on the partner program. "We're here because a lot of the stores look for partners to help out. We're also checking out the things that people are looking for," Tan said, adding that it's good to keep on top of consumer products that may work their way into the corporate environment.