Microsoft Store in Danbury Fair Mall Is No Apple Store

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Microsoft Store in Danbury Fair Mall Is No Apple Store

The new Microsoft Store had its grand opening in Danbury Fair Mall recently and I wanted to check it out. I happened to be in the Danbury Fair Mall to (ironically) visit the Apple Store to have my busted iPhone replaced. [Side note - none of the Apple Store employees had ever seen my shaking screen problem and they were all oohing and ahhing over the oddity.]

Anyway, after getting my iPhone replaced I headed over to the Microsoft store, which had just opened a couple weeks earlier. I fully expected the Microsoft Store to be a cheap knockoff or clone of the Apple Store and to smirk at the audacity of Microsoft copying Apple's retail idea. As soon as I walked through the door my immediate impression of the Microsoft Store was "Wow, this is no Apple Store."

My next thought was, "It's better." The Apple Store has this clean simplistic design with lots of white and clear plastic, but it lacks the fun factor and has this almost cold, hospital, sterile-like atmosphere. I found the Microsoft Store to be warm, fun, and futuristic. The store has huge flat screen displays lining the walls that are perfectly recessed into the wall so they don't stick out even one inch. In front of some of these displays are Xboxes and Kinects to allow visitors to play video games. While I saw some kids jumping and laughing playing a Kinect game I couldn't help but wonder if they were loud in the Apple Store. I imagined the Apple Store employees and indeed the Apple customers themselves would turn to the laughing kids and shush them like a librarian would do in a library and thinking to themselves, "Hush children. This is hollowed Apple ground. Would you be rowdy in a church?" While I may exaggerate the serious "feel" of the Apple Store compared to the Microsoft Store, there definitely is a more of a business-type atmosphere in the Apple Store while the Microsoft Store was more fun.

I checked out the large displays around the store and saw computers, Xboxes, Windows Phone, tablets, etc. Alas, no early Microsoft Surface tablet to play with. smiley-cry  In the middle of the store is the Answer Desk with a glass wall behind it to separate the front and rear of the store.

Interestingly, the store actually extends out into the mall where there was some chairs, table, and a large screen with a Xbox and Kinect hooked up, allowing customers to play games just outside the store away from any potential sales pressure inside the store. Though when I was in the store I wasn't approached by any of the Microsoft employees. Perhaps the reason was I whipped out my newly minted Apple iPhone and started taking photos and video of the store? You can check out a 360 degree view of the store in this video here:

One of the display tables read "Our favorite laptops". I didn't bother to look to see what models were being advertised as Microsoft's favorite laptops, but I imagined if they espoused HP as their favorite, how would ACER or Dell feel? And you thought the hardware manufacturers were upset about Microsoft Surface? Just imagine if Microsoft starts playing favorites in their retail stores or starts "selling" their "favorites" list to the highest bidder. I thought I saw "Our favorite tablets" display too, which will certainly put Microsoft in a bit of a quandry once Microsoft Surface is released. Hardware manufacturers who are building Windows RT and Windows 8 tablets won't appreciate not making the Microsoft Store's "Favorite tablets" display table. To be fair to Microsoft, it's their right to espouse their products as the "best" - it's their store.

No doubt Microsoft will leave 2-3 open spots in the "favorite tablets" display for competing companies such as ACER, HP, or Samsung, which announced a Windows RT tablet coming for when the Windows RT operating system debuts in October. The October debut is great news for holiday Christmas shoppers. I've already expressed my desire for a Window 8 tablet, though it looks like a full Windows 8 tablet (not RT) version might not be until after Christmas. cry_smile

The Apple Store I visited was jam packed while the traffic in the Microsoft Store was modest, so clearly Apple is winning the retail war. There are only 24 Microsoft Stores nationwide, so Microsoft has their work cut out for them to catch up to Apple Stores. However, I was very impressed with design and layout of the Microsoft Store at the Danbury Fair Mall and expect with the Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets launch (as well as Windows Phone 8) to bring Microsoft up to par with Apple in retail customers. One last note, at the time I visited the Apple Store there were NO kids in there while at the Microsoft Store there were at least 10 kids - no doubt due to the draw of the Xboxes and Kinect video games. I bring this up because parents will go where their kids want to go and parents like to buy things for their kids that their kids want. Kids could be Microsoft's secret weapon to gaining traction in the retail space and finally knocking Apple from their technology retail store throne.

Here's the full list of current Microsoft Store locations:
Scottsdale, AZ
Scottsdale Fashion Square

Costa Mesa, CA
South Coast Plaza

Los Angeles, CA
Westfield Century City

Mission Viejo, CA
The Shops at Mission Viejo

Palo Alto, CA
Stanford Shopping Center

San Diego, CA
Fashion Valley Mall

Santa Clara, CA
Westfield Valley Fair

Lone Tree, CO
Park Meadows Mall

Danbury, CT
Danbury Fair Mall

Orlando, FL
Coming soon
The Florida Mall

Atlanta, GA
Lenox Square Mall

Oak Brook, IL
Oakbrook Center

Overland Park, KS
Oak Park Mall

Boston, MA
Coming soon
The Shops at Prudential Center

Bloomington, MN
Mall of America

Salem, NH
Coming soon
The Mall at Rockingham Park
Bridgewater, NJ
Bridgewater Commons

Freehold, NJ
Freehold Raceway Mall

Huntington Station, NY
Coming soon
Walt Whitman Shops
White Plains, NY

Coming soon
The Westchester
San Juan, PR

Coming soon
Plaza Las Americas
Austin, TX
The Domain

Houston, TX
Houston Galleria

Arlington, VA
Coming soon
The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City
Tysons Corner, VA
Tysons Corner Center

Bellevue, WA
Bellevue Square Mall

Seattle, WA
University Village

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