If you build it, they will come.
OK, so "Field of Dreams" this ain't. But the news that Microsoft has hired a VP of Retail Stores [via ZDNet] and intends to dive into the retail market means this is a whole new ball game for Windows and Windows Mobile.
First, the man behind the curtain: David Porter has been hired away from Dreamworks Animation SKG, where he was head of worldwide product distribution.
“There are tremendous opportunities ahead for Microsoft to create a world-class shopping experience for our customers,” Porter said. “I am excited about helping consumers make more informed decisions about their PC and software purchases, and we’ll share learnings from our stores with our existing retail and OEM partners that are critical to our success.”
Now, peddling the wares: We've, er, mentioned before that the sheer volume of Windows Mobile devices can be a wee bit overwhelming. And as Malatesta just pointed out, it's getting to the point where phone manufacturers and carriers aren't even mentioning Windows Mobile, as if it's an anchor dragging the user into the briny deep.
But imagine a place where you can go and interact (read: play) with the latest Windows Mobile phones and — this is important here — see firsthand how Windows Mobile and the new versions of Windows and its upcoming cloud services work together. Yeah, this is hardly groundbreaking stuff in the retail world, so scoff if you want. But until now, Microsoft has relied on others to show off the fruits of its labor. Sure, Microsoft made the operating system, but it's been up to the (ever dwindling) big-box stores and late-night infomercials to give you any sort of a good look at what you'll be using.
Same goes for Windows Mobile. We've all stood there in a carrier's store or at a kiosk in a mall, but you're on their turf. Microsoft bringing you into its environment means you see its products on its terms. We're well aware that nary a brick has been laid yet. But a proper place to showcase Windows 7 and (eventually) Windows Mobile 7 could do great things for what we hope and pray expect to be an entirely new way of doing business for Microsoft.
Update: Did we totally call this, or what? Microsoft's Robbie Bach, from Techflash:
"We have plenty of distribution. These stores for us are about building our connection to customers, about building our brand presence, and about reaching out and understanding what works and what improves the selling experience. Apple, you would think of it as a volume distribution play. You should think of ours as much more of a brand and customer relationship investment, more than anything else."