Can Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) Follow the Apple Store Model? Apple Inc. (AAPL)

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In addition to making highly usable and coveted consumer electronics, one of the keys to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)‘s success has been its physical stores. At any Apple Store, you can not only get the tangible experience of any of the full line of devices, but you have the option of making an appointment to get help with a device you’ve already purchased. Roving salespeople with handheld cash registers circulate to answer new product questions, all of which creates the experience of a high-tech shopping atmosphere.

Microsoft Corporation (MSFT)

With the recent announcement that it will open two new permanent stores — one in Honolulu and one in Detroit — it seems apparent that Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is looking to capitalize on the Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) model. These locations will join some of the holiday locations that sprang up to push the company’s then recently released Surface tablet. Many of these locations are being converted into permanent spots, and the company is already hiring for various critical roles within each location.

What the ultimate success or failure of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s foray into the retail hardware space turns on is the quality of the products that adorn its stores. The Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) Store may be a cool place to shop, but if they weren’t selling a better widget, it would all be for naught — it doesn’t take a genius, or even an Apple Genius, to figure that out. You come to see the cool new toys the company is making and buy because the store is well executed.

The Surface Pro is coming
Set to be released this weekend, the critical product that will draw consumers to Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) stores — or not — is the new Surface Pro tablet. While similar to the original Surface RT released last fall, this version is capable of running a full version of Windows and is offered as a legitimate replacement for both your laptop and your tablet. Initial reviews have been mixed at best, but when you look a little deeper, certain critical details begin to emerge that shouldn’t be overlooked.

The initial reviews of the Surface Pro have been somewhere between lukewarm and negative. While the device was praised for its solid construction and high-resolution screen, there is a list of negatives that come along with the pros. Some of the top complaints include the fact that the Surface Pro is expensive, that it’s very weak on battery life, and that, as what The Wall Street Journal‘s Walt Mossberg calls a “tweener,” the device is neither a great tablet nor a great laptop. Mossberg argues that the device is really too heavy to be great as a tablet and that the kickstand setup doesn’t lend itself well to being used on your lap.

Other pros of the device include its ability to run a full version of Microsoft Office, as well as any of the 4 million Windows programs out there — a first for a device in the tablet form factor. David Pogue of The New York Times, who is one of the more positive reviewers, said: “The Surface Pro is an important idea, almost a new category, and it will be the right machine for a lot of people. It strikes a spot on the size/weight/speed/software spectrum that no machine has ever struck.”

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