Apples to lemons: Microsoft’s new retail showrooms

By Susan Older
Oct. 24, 2009

Hey, I love a blue screen of death as much as anyone, but I wouldn’t drive to the mall just to see one.

I have a Mac. My husband has a PC.  This makes for hours of hilarious fun.

When he starts to fire up his computer, I set the timer on my iPhone for 10 minutes. That’s how long it takes his PC to boot up. Then I set the stopwatch on my iPhone to see how long it will take him to ask if he can use my Mac while his antivirus software runs a scan. (My Mac doesn’t get viruses.) When that’s done, it’s either the blue screen of death (BSOD) or a complete crash. “I hope you backed up your data,” I say in a condescending tone that I now have down to a science. The fun never stops.

Now the frivolity is coming to a mall near you. Microsoft opened the first of its highly anticipated Apple Store knock-offs Thursday (Oct. 22, 2009) in Scottsdale, Ariz. I watched one of the videos and you can, too. They’re all over YouTube.

 

Oh, how hard they tried to make it look as hip and as cool as an Apple Store opening or a new Apple product launch. They even hired Apple employees by paying them significantly higher wages to work in the store and hike the cool factor. The signature all-glass front window revealed a similar layout. A line of people waited in an orderly, cordoned-off line. And when the doors opened, employees in Apple-like color-coded T-shirts executed a somewhat pathetic re-enactment of a new Apple Store opening, complete with clapping and high-fives for everyone.

Now, you may not love Apple as much as I do. Perhaps you even find Apple’s arrogance annoying. The clapping, the shirts, the Concierge team, the One-to-One training that actually educates customers so they won’t feel powerless when they are alone at home with their computers.

Maybe you laugh condescendingly when, on your way to Macy’s, you see customers actually getting their computers fixed in the store by the oh-so cutely named Genius Bar. But think about it, when your Dell breaks, do you think the Guru Bar at the Microsoft Windows Store is going to fix it. The “gurus” there won’t; they can’t. Microsoft doesn’t make your PC. It simply makes the operating system that makes your computer run, then crash. Apple makes its own products and its own software. Apple teaches you to use them and fixes them if they fail you. Apple is the Nordstrom of technology when it comes to customer service.

The Microsoft “store” is a clone, all right, but it’s a mutant clone. It’s not bright, sleek and hip, and it’s certainly not a store – if, by store, you mean a place you go to buy things. It’s a showroom. There are computers, but Microsoft doesn’t make computers. Apple does. You can buy copies of Windows 7, the new operating system Microsoft rolled out to drive away memories of the bad dream that was Vista. And you can buy the few hardware products Microsoft does make – the Zune and the X-Box game console.  But if you were going to buy a Zune or an X-Box, wouldn’t you keep doing what you’ve done all along — go to Best Buy or Walmart or Amazon in search of a discount?

It strikes me as more of a museum than a store. At first it seemed like comparing apples to oranges, but then it struck me that the fruit of Microsoft’s tree this time around is more like a lemon. So, yeah, it’s like comparing an Apple to a lemon.

As for me, I’ll take a pass when they open one of their “stores” near me. After all, I can observe the pitfalls of Microsoft Windows in the comfort of my own home.

Note: If you liked this obviously biased bit of Apple flattery, you’ll love this video.

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