The Microsoft Store is something of a haven for Microsoft fans, a place to find new hardware, software, and accessories ranging across a number of platforms. Not everyone is fortunate enough to live near a Microsoft Store, but new stores continue to open and expand Microsoft's reach.
One of those new Microsoft Stores opens in Friendswood, TX today inside of the Baybrook Mall. It will be the third one in the Houston area and the most convenient one within driving distance for yours truly. To celebrate the grand opening today, Microsoft will be offering up for $99 Toshiba Windows tablets and 4GB Xbox 360 consoles, free gift cards, and a chance to meet José Altuve of the Houston Astros.
Yesterday I toured the Friendswood Microsoft Store a little early in order to bring you our impressions and a full rundown of today's Grand Opening celebration. Update: Now with fresh photos from the ceremony!
The store not yet opened when I arrived, so the entire storefront was draped in Microsoft-themed curtains. Two exceptional members of Microsoft's PR staff greeted me outside of the curtain and ushered me inside. There they introduced me to the appropriately named Store Manager Taniel McLean (pictured at left), and the Store Teacher Bebe Gonzalez (pictured at right).
Taniel and Bebe walked me through the new store's displays and features while other employees trained and prepared for today's opening. This particular Microsoft Store is smaller than the one I visited inside the Houston galleria last December (1,156 square feet compared to 4,400 square feet), but still packs all the features you'd expect from a retail store run by the big MS:
- Microsoft Band: The display for the band was still being set up during my preview, but Bebe was happy to walk me through the features of the Band she was wearing. You'll find the Band display front and center upon entering this Store.
- Surface: Both a section of the left wall and a table are dedicated to the Surface Pro 3 and Surface 2. Visitors can test drive both tablets, the Touch Cover, and the Surface Pro 3 Dock.
- Windows Phone: Just past the Surface section of the wall lies the Windows Phone area. Here users will find a beautiful yellow Lumia 1520 and six more Windows Phones.
- Tablets: One table on the right is dedicated to Windows 8 tablets, such as the Toshiba Encore 2 which is on sale for $99 today only.
- Laptops: Two tables boast an impressive array of laptops, including the beefy Razer Blade and a handful of transformable laptop-tablet hybrids.
- Desktops: Tucked away in the back corner of the Xbox wall are a couple of desktop computers. This display hadn't been fully set up yesterday.
- Xbox: My favorite section, the majority of the right-side wall is dedicated to Xbox One and Xbox 360, with the newer console taking up about two-thirds of the section. Customers will find consoles, games, and a multitude of accessories. The Store had not received any white Sunset Overdrive Xbox One consoles as of yesterday, but those are known to be in limited supply.
- Training area: Two tables are dedicated to helping customers set up and learn to use their new Microsoft products.
- Video wall: The rear wall boasts a gigantic display comprised of 12 flat-screen monitors.
The Friendswood Microsoft Store is located inside of the Baybrook Mall at 500 Baybrook Mall, Friendswood, TX 77546. You'll find it directly across from the central fountain, just past the food court.
This Microsoft Store's hours are the same as the Baybrook Mall itself:
- Monday-Saturday: 10:00am-9:00pm
- Sunday: 12:00pm-6:00pm
Fun fact: my alma mater, the University of Houston Clear Lake, is just a few miles from the Baybrook Mall.
Grand opening details
Check out today's Grand Opening schedule:
- 10:30 a.m. CT – Grand Opening Ceremony. Join Microsoft for a ribbon-cutting ceremony where we will present $675,000 in software grants.
- 11 a.m. CT – Doors open for a full day of celebration. Microsoft will host giveaways, and customers can take advantage of great deals on PCs, Windows Phones, Xbox releases and more.
- 6 p.m. CT – Xbox One Event. Come meet baseball star José Altuve and get a chance to play Xbox One!
Microsoft has some truly special deals and giveaways in store for today's visitors:
The first 500 customers in line at the ribbon cutting ceremony a gift card with a surprising amount ranging from $10 to $1,000. More than 100 of those customers in line will be gifted a card worth $100 or more, and two lucky customers will receive a $1,000 gift card to Microsoft retail stores. Score!
Today only, customers can get the Toshiba Encore 2 with 8-inch screen and 32 GB of storage (10-inch version, not on sale, pictured above) for $99 (regular price: $250). In gaming, customers can buy the 4 GB Xbox 360 system for $99 (regular price: $179) as well.
Will you be driving out to the Friendswood Microsoft Store's Grand Opening? Leave a comment and let us know!
Here are some pictures from today's event courtesy of Microsoft!