Microsoft will be opening stores soon to showcase its products and it is still unknown if these locations will simply show products or sell them as well. While some think this is a bad idea I think it can be pulled off successfully.
The company has some great consumer products like the Xbox and a slew of mobile devices which run its operating systems. Then there is the Zune which has a long way to go before it gains any meaningful marketshare.
But these products alone are not enough to make these stores a must-visit the next time you are in the mall. What the company must do is set up an advisory council which determines which products get into this store.
The difference between Microsoft and Apple is Apple always controls the hardware and can ensure a solution doesn't look like garbage. And when you compare an iPhone to most Microsoft-based phones before the iPhone was released, you understand that Microsoft partners generally look to design as an afterthought.
And Microsoft is at the mercy of these partners for sales and its image.
As the consumer electronics market continues on, Microsoft is becoming a smaller and smaller player - even as it invests more and more in products like the Zune and puts more effort into its mobile device division.
That takes care of the coolness factor, now the company needs vision. Microsoft makes a disjointed array of products and services which have little synergy with one another. There is no grand vision.
You don't put the word sexy and Microsoft in the same sentence but we all agree Apple has sex appeal. Why? These companies compete head-to-head.
Microsoft has to start thinking more about sex appeal and less about the features of its latest operating system. This is the most important area for Microsoft to focus on.
Microsoft, you want to own the netbook market? The answer lies in a dead sexy OS for these pocket-sized computing devices.
You won't need Jerry Seinfeld ads to pull this off mind you. Make your products slicker. Make them dead easy to use.
You are in a great position. Virtually everyone uses your products and services and your stores could become the busiest places in the malls of the world. And right now, the malls of the world need you more than you need them.
But please don't blow it. Your first step towards this effort was to hire someone from Wal-Mart which makes sense in terms of helping with where to open the stores. But please, oh God please, do not get anyone from Wal-Mart to help design the insides of the stores. You have a real chance to one-up Apple. You have global partners designing amazing products based on your software. Make these stores the ultimate showcase. If done right, designers worldwide will fight to design products which are hot enough for you to select to be in store windows the world over.
And this Microsoft is how you take on Apple and blunt their move to take over computing in all our homes and eventually our offices. Don't do this right and you will have major problems. Do it right and your image improves overnight.