Microsoft revealed Thursday that it plans to open a chain of company-branded retail stores in locations throughout the United States and the rest of the world. To spearhead the initiative, the software maker tapped former Wal-Mart executive David Porter.
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"The purpose of opening these stores is to create deeper engagement with consumers and continue to learn firsthand about what they want and how they buy," Microsoft said in a statement.
The company didn't say specifically where or when it plans to open the stores. "Defining the time frame, locations, and specifics for planned Microsoft-branded retail stores will be Porter's first order of business," Microsoft said.
Porter spent 25 years at Wal-Mart in various roles, including store operations, merchandising, and IT.
Microsoft indicated that it wants to use the stores as a platform to hawk its forthcoming Windows 7 operating system. "This is an exciting time with our strong lineup of upcoming product releases including Windows 7 and new releases of Windows Live and Windows Mobile," said Kevin Turner, the company's chief operating officer, in a statement.
Windows 7 is expected to be available in late 2009 or early 2010.
Porter said the retail market presents "tremendous opportunities" for Microsoft. "We'll share learnings from our stores with our existing retail and OEM partners that are critical for our success," Porter said in a statement.
In launching its own stores, Microsoft is stealing a page from rival Apple's playbook. Steve Jobs' company operates Apple Stores in major hubs, including New York City, San Francisco, and Dallas. Electronics maker Sony also operates of a chain of company-branded retail outlets in the United States.
Microsoft needs to boost its performance in the retail market. Sales of Windows fell 8% year over year in the company's most recent quarter, while sales of Microsoft Office to consumers plunged 28%.
Shares of Microsoft were off slightly in pre-market trading Friday.
InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on Windows 7. Download the report here (registration required).