35 thoughts on “My letter to Microsoft as it gets back into retail

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  2. buy dell, compete on value.

    MS has always half-assed their hardware initiatives. They need to get in or get out. And screw retail, people just want easy access to their product – Dell’s infrastructure would allow for this in spades.

  3. buy dell, compete on value.

    MS has always half-assed their hardware initiatives. They need to get in or get out. And screw retail, people just want easy access to their product – Dell’s infrastructure would allow for this in spades.

  4. Um, they have Wal-Mart people behind the project. I predict a FAIL because they will likely reinforce their reputation of mediocrity. They haven’t had any direct customers for years, really, so I predict — not meanly! I’m just saying! — they will get the tone, the value prop, and the excitement factor all wrong.

  5. Um, they have Wal-Mart people behind the project. I predict a FAIL because they will likely reinforce their reputation of mediocrity. They haven’t had any direct customers for years, really, so I predict — not meanly! I’m just saying! — they will get the tone, the value prop, and the excitement factor all wrong.

  6. Along with everything you mentioned…

    1. no counters
    2. no check-out lines
    3. no stanchions
    4. insanely passionate and knowledgeable people who greet customers, engage and don’t try to sell them something they aren’t looking for.

    Yes, Apple does a lot of the above. no, Best Buy does not. In fact, most organizations don’t. ROI takes too long. I like your bathroom comment…bet they don’t do it. Very few companies focus on design harmony throughout the customer experience.

    Besides Apple, MS could take some lessons from hotels… for instance the Capital Hotel in Little Rock, AR…they get it.

  7. Along with everything you mentioned…

    1. no counters
    2. no check-out lines
    3. no stanchions
    4. insanely passionate and knowledgeable people who greet customers, engage and don’t try to sell them something they aren’t looking for.

    Yes, Apple does a lot of the above. no, Best Buy does not. In fact, most organizations don’t. ROI takes too long. I like your bathroom comment…bet they don’t do it. Very few companies focus on design harmony throughout the customer experience.

    Besides Apple, MS could take some lessons from hotels… for instance the Capital Hotel in Little Rock, AR…they get it.

  8. “MSFT hires Walmart Exec to run Retail Stores”

    Life imitates The Onion. Will they hire Jerry Seinfeld to be the spokesmodel?

  9. “MSFT hires Walmart Exec to run Retail Stores”

    Life imitates The Onion. Will they hire Jerry Seinfeld to be the spokesmodel?

  10. Robert Scoble’s advice to Microsoft in two words: Copy Apple.

    He seems to forget the fact that Apple requires a “magical” experience in their stores to fool people into paying for their overpriced computers and consumer gadgets.

  11. Robert Scoble’s advice to Microsoft in two words: Copy Apple.

    He seems to forget the fact that Apple requires a “magical” experience in their stores to fool people into paying for their overpriced computers and consumer gadgets.

  12. Robert you lost me. You are exploring a 50B$ company’s strategic shift to retail?

    Here is the deal: Apple built a brand in 10+years to be what it is and the shops are just one little piece in a gigantic puzzle. Microsoft in contrast built an ugly Monopoly with a disastrous development over time and finally delivered the most embarrassing result a high tech company could do – Vista. Read my comment on the VAR-Guy to get a bit of an understanding what the latest development of Microsoft could mean.
    http://xeeurl.com/A0450

    5 Reasons why this will not succeed in the long run:
    ======================================

    1) Direct Sales
    Compaq did the unthinkable. Between 1982 and 1998 that little company grew from nothing to the single largest PC manufacturer on the planet. They had to be COMPATIBLE to survive and compete with giant IBM and they WON!!!!. Why? Quality? Features? Price? NO – they had what nobody else had. A 100% loyal channel. It took only 2 years to destroy that channel – and the company.

    2) Brand Evolution
    Today brands are carried through hundreds of millions of users. There is no company today big enough to overshadow their own market – and only a few are stupid enough to try. 100 Million frustrated Vista users can’t be impressed by a SHOP to forget the embarrassing slap in all our faces.

    3) Technology Alliances
    Microsoft failed to evolve into a networked world. As the company continues to CONTROL every aspect of live (well only topped by Google) only the old windows developer laggards who never jumped on modern internet application design will continue to develop for Win 7. I can’t imagine that anybody expects any major innovation out of that. Everybody else is actively locked out by Microsoft – which at the end locked Microsoft out.

    4) Price is no longer the issue
    Even if Win 7 is given away for free too many people would just not touch it. Not only because of the devastating experience with Vista but there is just no compelling enough reason. BUT OEMs like IBM, HP, Acer… will pick it up. But only if MS promises to help push the new hardware sales. Ahhhh – get the idea now? MS NEEDS to invest maybe more than revenue to stay in the OS business and a clever way is to setup shops and help the OEMs who play, to sell their iron. The question remains if users bite and if resellers and VARs just sit there and watch.

    5) Windows XP Auctions
    Windows XP was the best windows OS. Microsoft tries to ATTACK people to sell their XP Operating system on Auctions. XP prices will go up and I’m glad I have at least kept my licenses. Win XP auctions and sales will grow and legal action raise more visibility. A SHOP won’t stop that

  13. Robert you lost me. You are exploring a 50B$ company’s strategic shift to retail?

    Here is the deal: Apple built a brand in 10+years to be what it is and the shops are just one little piece in a gigantic puzzle. Microsoft in contrast built an ugly Monopoly with a disastrous development over time and finally delivered the most embarrassing result a high tech company could do – Vista. Read my comment on the VAR-Guy to get a bit of an understanding what the latest development of Microsoft could mean.
    http://xeeurl.com/A0450

    5 Reasons why this will not succeed in the long run:
    ======================================

    1) Direct Sales
    Compaq did the unthinkable. Between 1982 and 1998 that little company grew from nothing to the single largest PC manufacturer on the planet. They had to be COMPATIBLE to survive and compete with giant IBM and they WON!!!!. Why? Quality? Features? Price? NO – they had what nobody else had. A 100% loyal channel. It took only 2 years to destroy that channel – and the company.

    2) Brand Evolution
    Today brands are carried through hundreds of millions of users. There is no company today big enough to overshadow their own market – and only a few are stupid enough to try. 100 Million frustrated Vista users can’t be impressed by a SHOP to forget the embarrassing slap in all our faces.

    3) Technology Alliances
    Microsoft failed to evolve into a networked world. As the company continues to CONTROL every aspect of live (well only topped by Google) only the old windows developer laggards who never jumped on modern internet application design will continue to develop for Win 7. I can’t imagine that anybody expects any major innovation out of that. Everybody else is actively locked out by Microsoft – which at the end locked Microsoft out.

    4) Price is no longer the issue
    Even if Win 7 is given away for free too many people would just not touch it. Not only because of the devastating experience with Vista but there is just no compelling enough reason. BUT OEMs like IBM, HP, Acer… will pick it up. But only if MS promises to help push the new hardware sales. Ahhhh – get the idea now? MS NEEDS to invest maybe more than revenue to stay in the OS business and a clever way is to setup shops and help the OEMs who play, to sell their iron. The question remains if users bite and if resellers and VARs just sit there and watch.

    5) Windows XP Auctions
    Windows XP was the best windows OS. Microsoft tries to ATTACK people to sell their XP Operating system on Auctions. XP prices will go up and I’m glad I have at least kept my licenses. Win XP auctions and sales will grow and legal action raise more visibility. A SHOP won’t stop that

  14. You’re still confused about what Microsoft and Apple are. Microsoft is not in the hardware business, and thus is free to interoperate with a large number of platforms. Apple is stuck on one hardware platform, unless you count all those people stealing OS X to run it on their MSI Wind. Apple may have gained ground on Microsoft, but as long as they continue to remain “simple” for the masses, they cannot gain traction in the complex world of business. Yeah, yeah, there’s plenty of places that might have a few Macs on the desk and an Xserve or two, but for the majority of enterprise systems, the Mac just isn’t complex enough for that space.

    If you’re talking about just the consumer space, Microsoft is much bigger than just that market, but have fun with your iPhones and MacBooks. I know I will, but I’m not deluded enough to believe that will replace my Thinkpad at work, with all the flexible policy features that Windows can offer any industry steeped in regulatory requirements. I think Apple has some more ground to gain, but at some point it better realize that it is going to plateau against Microsoft in the consumer market especially in this economy. Nothing but adding complexity will be able to get them traction in some areas.

    Maybe what they need is OS XI Pro and OS XI Home.

  15. You’re still confused about what Microsoft and Apple are. Microsoft is not in the hardware business, and thus is free to interoperate with a large number of platforms. Apple is stuck on one hardware platform, unless you count all those people stealing OS X to run it on their MSI Wind. Apple may have gained ground on Microsoft, but as long as they continue to remain “simple” for the masses, they cannot gain traction in the complex world of business. Yeah, yeah, there’s plenty of places that might have a few Macs on the desk and an Xserve or two, but for the majority of enterprise systems, the Mac just isn’t complex enough for that space.

    If you’re talking about just the consumer space, Microsoft is much bigger than just that market, but have fun with your iPhones and MacBooks. I know I will, but I’m not deluded enough to believe that will replace my Thinkpad at work, with all the flexible policy features that Windows can offer any industry steeped in regulatory requirements. I think Apple has some more ground to gain, but at some point it better realize that it is going to plateau against Microsoft in the consumer market especially in this economy. Nothing but adding complexity will be able to get them traction in some areas.

    Maybe what they need is OS XI Pro and OS XI Home.

  16. Doomed plain and simple, and in the worst time imaginable. Your list of early adopterish wants notwithstanding.

    I think the past few months, has seen a rethought. I heard from journo sources, this was a prior plan, since tabled. So moot point.

  17. Doomed plain and simple, and in the worst time imaginable. Your list of early adopterish wants notwithstanding.

    I think the past few months, has seen a rethought. I heard from journo sources, this was a prior plan, since tabled. So moot point.

  18. Good letter to Microsoft Robert… maybe they’ll listen.

    Microsoft, don’t squander your opportunity to get back some retail market share. If you are going to do this, do it right the first time!

    Maybe they should hire you, Seth Godin and Joel Spolsky to do some consulting. From what I’ve read you three together would absolutely come up with great ideas.

  19. Good letter to Microsoft Robert… maybe they’ll listen.

    Microsoft, don’t squander your opportunity to get back some retail market share. If you are going to do this, do it right the first time!

    Maybe they should hire you, Seth Godin and Joel Spolsky to do some consulting. From what I’ve read you three together would absolutely come up with great ideas.

  20. A few bits on your letter: Apple can be beat. What do they do wrong?

    1.Their laptops are on tables that are too low to actually get a feel of how good/bad they are to type on. Try typing on a Macbook Air next time you’re there. You’ll notice that it’s very difficult to. Why? because it’s so low, you need to bend you wrists like crazy to try their keyboard. Will MS be selling hardware? Who knows, but this is a major flaw of Apple’s store.

    2. Apple TV isn’t in its native environment. It may be running on a TV, but it’s on a counter and requires you to get way too close to it in order to check it out. In real life, you don’t stand that close to your TV. In the apple store you stand so close, it’s easier to see mpeg artifacts, and it means you’re more likely to have the remote misfire (most users point remotes at their TV instead of the device itself. When you’re far away this is not an issue, but up-close it often means the device never gets the IR, and makes the product feel clunky).

    3. Apple store employees aren’t trained for tech questions. I’ve gone in to apple stores many, many times and asked for an extension cable for my Apple Cinema Display (the cable cannot be removed like most monitors). Not only do they not carry a solution for this, but I’ve *never* been told a model number or even what to look for at another store. Basically, if it’s not at an Apple store, they can’t help you.

    4. Apple does not let you try the 3rd party Mac software they sell. if it’s iPhoto or any other Apple product it’ll be installed on one of the machines in the store. But the 3rd party software they sell can’t be demoed, and quite often you can’t even find an employee who has used it.

  21. A few bits on your letter: Apple can be beat. What do they do wrong?

    1.Their laptops are on tables that are too low to actually get a feel of how good/bad they are to type on. Try typing on a Macbook Air next time you’re there. You’ll notice that it’s very difficult to. Why? because it’s so low, you need to bend you wrists like crazy to try their keyboard. Will MS be selling hardware? Who knows, but this is a major flaw of Apple’s store.

    2. Apple TV isn’t in its native environment. It may be running on a TV, but it’s on a counter and requires you to get way too close to it in order to check it out. In real life, you don’t stand that close to your TV. In the apple store you stand so close, it’s easier to see mpeg artifacts, and it means you’re more likely to have the remote misfire (most users point remotes at their TV instead of the device itself. When you’re far away this is not an issue, but up-close it often means the device never gets the IR, and makes the product feel clunky).

    3. Apple store employees aren’t trained for tech questions. I’ve gone in to apple stores many, many times and asked for an extension cable for my Apple Cinema Display (the cable cannot be removed like most monitors). Not only do they not carry a solution for this, but I’ve *never* been told a model number or even what to look for at another store. Basically, if it’s not at an Apple store, they can’t help you.

    4. Apple does not let you try the 3rd party Mac software they sell. if it’s iPhoto or any other Apple product it’ll be installed on one of the machines in the store. But the 3rd party software they sell can’t be demoed, and quite often you can’t even find an employee who has used it.

  22. You gotta wonder about the logic of providing a local place for hordes of angry customers to gather to complain, picket, prank, demonstrate, etc.

    Can you imagine the press opportunities for “events” at the local MSFT store

    Linux Day – hand out copies of Linux
    Apple Day – visitors give apples to store staff
    BSOD Day – show up with BSOD T-shirts
    XP Day – Vista owners show up en masse and demand free downgrades
    Patch Day – highlight the latest vulnerabilities
    Clippy Day – honoring MSFT innovation
    Churro Day – honoring MSFT advertising

    I can imagine an entire YouTube channel of Apple and Linux aficionados pranking the store.

    Right now MSFT is completely insulated from customers… maybe they should want to keep it that way – at least until they figure out how to listen to their customers and give them what they really want.

    Apple has raving fans – Linux has energetic zealots – MSFT has the resigned and frustrated

    Why provide a focal point for customer action?

    Seems to me having a MSFT store becomes more of a reminder of unsatisfactory experiences than a place to go for joy, excitement and what’s new.

  23. You gotta wonder about the logic of providing a local place for hordes of angry customers to gather to complain, picket, prank, demonstrate, etc.

    Can you imagine the press opportunities for “events” at the local MSFT store

    Linux Day – hand out copies of Linux
    Apple Day – visitors give apples to store staff
    BSOD Day – show up with BSOD T-shirts
    XP Day – Vista owners show up en masse and demand free downgrades
    Patch Day – highlight the latest vulnerabilities
    Clippy Day – honoring MSFT innovation
    Churro Day – honoring MSFT advertising

    I can imagine an entire YouTube channel of Apple and Linux aficionados pranking the store.

    Right now MSFT is completely insulated from customers… maybe they should want to keep it that way – at least until they figure out how to listen to their customers and give them what they really want.

    Apple has raving fans – Linux has energetic zealots – MSFT has the resigned and frustrated

    Why provide a focal point for customer action?

    Seems to me having a MSFT store becomes more of a reminder of unsatisfactory experiences than a place to go for joy, excitement and what’s new.

  24. One word: Rebrand!

    Seriously, drop the name altogether – Microsoft is very well known for what it is, and trying to pitch it in other directions (retail)…where it’s not a winner…needs a new face. That won’t over-power Apple, but it would certainly make the company more competitive. The Xbox is a good example of this: a product, in the retail market, that makes a name for itself without being directly thought of as ‘Microsoft’…they need more of that. They don’t need more of ‘Zune’ though – which hasn’t done well.

  25. One word: Rebrand!

    Seriously, drop the name altogether – Microsoft is very well known for what it is, and trying to pitch it in other directions (retail)…where it’s not a winner…needs a new face. That won’t over-power Apple, but it would certainly make the company more competitive. The Xbox is a good example of this: a product, in the retail market, that makes a name for itself without being directly thought of as ‘Microsoft’…they need more of that. They don’t need more of ‘Zune’ though – which hasn’t done well.

  26. #7 and #8 are perfect. If you are Microsoft you want to have people think cool, high tech and cutting edge. Emailing a receipt is perfect. And pushing a lifestyle is great, but I don’t think it can be unified cleanly. MS is great for the DIYers, and that should get a space. As should space for office/productivity, gaming, etc. I don’t think it can really have the same approach as Apple, because Apple sells a the out-of-the-box experience. They can do that because of the uniformity of their software/hardware. I suppose I am saying MS can push how much is possible with their PCs and software. All of your points are really good though. The Best Buy commentary is dead on.

  27. #7 and #8 are perfect. If you are Microsoft you want to have people think cool, high tech and cutting edge. Emailing a receipt is perfect. And pushing a lifestyle is great, but I don’t think it can be unified cleanly. MS is great for the DIYers, and that should get a space. As should space for office/productivity, gaming, etc. I don’t think it can really have the same approach as Apple, because Apple sells a the out-of-the-box experience. They can do that because of the uniformity of their software/hardware. I suppose I am saying MS can push how much is possible with their PCs and software. All of your points are really good though. The Best Buy commentary is dead on.

  28. My advice would be for Microsoft to stay away from retail.

    If they must, they should install a confessional at the front of the store. There you can drop off old copies of Vista or XP and have Microsoft confess its sins to you. You may assign penance of a few hundred dollars and receive a nice voucher for your past troubles.

    When you come out, you may then proceed to buy really cool and radically wonderful new Mircosoft products at the back of the store.

    At the sides of the store, they should set up not one but two Compatibility Bars to compete with Apple’s Genius Bar.

    Don’t get me wrong. I like Microsoft but I love Apple.
    :)

  29. My advice would be for Microsoft to stay away from retail.

    If they must, they should install a confessional at the front of the store. There you can drop off old copies of Vista or XP and have Microsoft confess its sins to you. You may assign penance of a few hundred dollars and receive a nice voucher for your past troubles.

    When you come out, you may then proceed to buy really cool and radically wonderful new Mircosoft products at the back of the store.

    At the sides of the store, they should set up not one but two Compatibility Bars to compete with Apple’s Genius Bar.

    Don’t get me wrong. I like Microsoft but I love Apple.
    :)

  30. Can you get face time with Microsoft so they can explain this retail vision. Are they planning to buy Dell or something so they can sell laptops and PC’s in these stores? Or is to showcase the table top PC that no one can afford? Perhaps they are being setup for the eco-systems of XBox and Zune which seems rather limited in comparison to Apple or even a Best Buy.

    Thanks for all you do, look forward to your upcoming vids, tweets and posts…

  31. Can you get face time with Microsoft so they can explain this retail vision. Are they planning to buy Dell or something so they can sell laptops and PC’s in these stores? Or is to showcase the table top PC that no one can afford? Perhaps they are being setup for the eco-systems of XBox and Zune which seems rather limited in comparison to Apple or even a Best Buy.

    Thanks for all you do, look forward to your upcoming vids, tweets and posts…

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