Microsoft's Store Plans Don't Worry Channel

Microsoft partners say the vendor's plans to open storefronts might actually help sales by increasing customer product awareness and improving Microsoft's image.

February 17, 2009

Lynn Haber

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If opening a spate of retail storefronts boosts the brand, increases visibility, promotes a new cool image for Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and ultimately captures consumer mindshare, then many channel partners are okay with Microsoft’s recent plan to create a Microsoft brand store.

“Microsoft isn’t the bad guy, but that’s the image it has with a lot of the public. Vista’s reception in the market didn’t help,” said Adam Brookman, systems engineer at Calvert Computer Solutions Inc., a Dunkirk, Md.-based Microsoft small business specialist. 

John O’Connell, president of Computer Center, a Hanover, Mass.-based Microsoft partner, also believes the move could help Microsoft gain appeal. “Microsoft does need help shedding that negative image, first with Windows Millennium and now Vista,” he said. “The vendor has insulated itself for too long.”

Last week the vendor announced its intention to open stores and appointed veteran David Porter as corporate vice president of retail stores.

Spotlighting Products

Microsoft partners note there's a lot about the company that users don’t know, especially the vendor’s “cool” products, such as Surface.

Sahir Anand, senior analyst for retail at Aberdeen Group, Boston, said Microsoft could use the stores to its benefit. “Store shelves that are filled with Microsoft products such as Xbox, financial and retail software, other digital media, video and voice products, and possibly, a showcase of Surface kiosks. Imagine, a Microsoft store door buster or a special offer for Xbox 360 on Black Friday,” said Anand.

Some channel partners see a positive indirect impact from the stores. “If a Microsoft store helps educate the consumer about products such as Vista and turn around the negative public mindset about the product, that perception is likely to trickle down to my customers, which would be positive for business,” said Doug Hafford, vice president consulting services at Afinety. an Encino. Calif.-based Microsoft Gold Certified Partner.

Hafford added that that he’d focus on Microsoft’s business market. “I’d rather hear Microsoft saying, 'here’s how we’re going to help you Mr. Business Customer.' We’re going to cut prices to stay within your budget, and we’re going to offer financing at extremely low rates so that your business can flourish in this bad economy,” he said.

On the other hand, Steve Walter, partner at Sarasota, Fla.-based Method Factory, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, thinks Microsoft’s retail store strategy is a crazy idea that won’t impact on his business.

“I think it will further fragment and decentivize the channel,” he said, adding that it will  take away money from the big-box and online retailers. “The money would be better spent elsewhere,” said Walter.


TAGS: Windows,services,Microsoft,Vista,channel partners

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