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First Microsoft Retail Stores to Open This Fall - InternetNews.
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First Microsoft Retail Stores to Open This Fall

A slide deck showing what Microsoft confirmed are prototype designs for the software maker's first Microsoft branded retail stores leaked to tech gadget blog site Gizmodo.com late last Friday.

Now, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has also confirmed where the first stores will be -- and when.

"We are on track to open stores in the fall timeframe in Scottsdale, Arizona at Scottsdale Fashion Square and Mission Viejo, Calif. at the Shops at Mission Viejo," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com Tuesday.

The statement jives with statements made two weeks ago by Microsoft COO Kevin Turner during his keynote at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans.

"Stay tuned, because we're going to have some retail stores opened up that are opened up right next door to Apple stores this fall," Turner told the audience.

Microsoft quietly announced it would be opening its own chain of retail stores in February.

At that time, company officials also announced they had hired David Porter away from animation studio DreamWorks Animation SKG, where he headed worldwide product distribution. His official job title is corporate vice president of retail stores and he reports directly to Turner.

The stores will be the first two of what Microsoft has characterized as a small number of retail outlets. Gizmodo claims to have come into some 140 PowerPoint slides, of which it posted 54 online.

The slides are labeled Lippincott, for the famed 65-year-old brand-focused design firm.

While confirming that the slides are authentic, however, Microsoft said they are just ideas. "As a part of our process in briefing creative agencies, we shared some early prototypes and concepts of our retail store plans," the spokesperson said. "No final decisions have been made."

"The main focuses are going to be Windows 7, Xbox, PCTV (Windows Media Center) Surface and Windows Mobile, revolving around this concept customer they call 'Emily,' who's basically a younger version of your mom, since they make all the buying decisions," said the Gizmodo post. The floors would be dotted with Microsoft Surface table top computers.

In the concept design, the stores would have a giant display called a Digital Media Wall that could span both sides of a store and be used to perhaps display "global landscapes" that would help to create "moments of inclusive exuberance."

It should probably surprise no one that there are parallels between the coming Microsoft stores and the seven-year-old Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) stores. For instance, the slides show a so-called "Answer Bar," which implies that it may be very similar to Apple Store's "Genius Bar" tech support area.

However, one analyst says that criticisms are not warranted, because retail is defined by one player copying the successful models adopted by its rivals.

"In retail, if somebody has a good idea, someone else will copy it," Stephen Baker, vice president for industry analysis at NPD Techworld, told InternetNews.com. "Once you open the doors, there are no secrets."

Still, Baker, who cautioned that his observations are just "idle speculation," said that Microsoft may have some tinkering to do once the early stores open.

"It [the store concept] felt too techie and not accessible enough," Baker added. "With the Apple stores, I like the minimalistic focus on the products."