New Microsoft and Best Buy “Store Within a Store” a Big Step Forward

Last week, Microsoft and Best Buy announced that they will be doing a Microsoft “store-within-a-store”. Essentially, Microsoft will pay Best Buy a large sum of money to “own” part of the store, in a way similar to Samsung and Apple.  Best Buy will still own the inventory, but Microsoft will own the merchandising, staffing-levels and training.  I believe this is a big step forward, and if executed well, helps solve many of the issues associated with Windows 8 PC experience.  Let me start with some perspective on Windows 8.

For anyone who has been in the industry a while, you know that a few things defines the Windows experience over the last 20 years:

  • primary keyboard and mouse UI
  • one, windowed Desktop environment with lots of “chrome”
  • start button (18 years ago)
  • multitasking of any app
  • backwards app and peripheral compatibility
  • desktops and notebook form factors

Windows 8 changed ALL of this:

  • primary UI display touch, secondarily mouse and keyboard
  • two environments; one Metro and secondly Desktop
  • no start button
  • every Desktop app multitasks, select Metro apps multitask
  • Desktop X86 backwards compatibility, ARM no app backwards compatibility, undetermined peripheral compatibility
  • desktops, notebooks, convertibles, detachables, tablets

In other words, everything changed.  The problem was, that Best Buy’s training and merchandising didn’t change dramatically to educate the buyer on the benefits of Windows 8 nor the differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT.  After talking at length with Microsoft, here are my expectations:

  • computer will always be turned on and internet-connected
  • security devices won’t impede ability to try convertibles and detachables
  • more knowledgeable sales associates
  • touch devices clearly merchandised
  • more, higher-priced “hero” SKUs that are the best of the best

If executed well, I believe this will go a long way in mitigating the current buying experience issues inherent with Windows 8 and Windows RT.  The Austin store is one of the first stores to open and I will be there on opening night to gauge their level of execution.  And of course, will report back.