Regarding Microsoft’s Foray Into Retail

Farhad Manjoo, recommending in Slate that Microsoft shamelessly copy Apple’s retail store design in their own upcoming stores:

The Microsoft stores might also cut down on tech problems by selling a small range of specially designed PC systems, machines that would come with an Apple-like promise of free tech support for life. Indeed, this would neatly solve Microsoft’s perennial problem — the perception that Windows computers are cheap and prone to failure.

I say the problem isn’t with perception, but rather that Windows computers really do tend to be junkier and more prone to failure. Apple’s retail success doesn’t start with perception, it starts with well-designed products.

What’s telling to me is that Microsoft’s new retail chief, David Porter, comes from Wal-Mart. Apple’s retail chief, Ron Johnson, came from Target. Target stores are nice. Wal-Mart stores are hellholes. And don’t forget that Mickey Drexler — long-time CEO of Gap, currently CEO of J. Crew — is an Apple board member. You are who you hire.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009