But in case any Microsoft executives read this blog, I feel it's my duty to inform them of two facts.
1. It won't.
2. That's okay.
Lets back up. I think the best way to explain why the Microsoft stores are going to be a laughable failure is to answer the age-old debate between PCs and Macs. And heres the answer, as disappointing as frothing fanboys may find it: theyre just different. Both have a place in the market, and they'll make money as long as they stick to their rightful domain.
Macintosh is elitist. Thats its thing. That elitism may come in the form of family-friendly machines with bright colors and giant buttons, but its still an elitism, simply because of the level of image involved. Buying a Mac has become a lifestyle choice, from the Apple sticker on the rear window of your Prius to the black turtleneck guarding you against the fog of a Northern California morning.
And that elitism is built right into the machine. Apples slogan is It just works, but it could as well be Hopefully it just works, because if it doesnt you dont have a lot of options. Theyve gotten better since the Linux makeover but, by and large, if my Mac breaks down, I tend to just drop it from my balcony and order another.
The point is, Macintosh doesnt have time to let you fiddle around with their insides; theyre too busy innovating. Also making out with Pixar.
Meanwhile, Microsoft represents the ultimate in computing populism. Buying a PC and loading up Windows says nothing whatsoever about your lifestyle beyond I live and work in the 21st century.
And by not cultivating any sort of coherent image, and copying other companies innovations with a ruthless efficiency that would make Edison proud, Microsoft has saved time better spent haphazardly licensing third-party companies to make their products and patching the shit out of their buggy software.
Theres a lot more to be said about how thats only an oversimplification and how this one guy totally overclocked his G5 and it has a steampunk brass casing and meanwhile this other guy super-glued his PC case shut and was like what?, but the history of the two companies bears out that when they stick to their respective domains, theres plenty of money to go around for both.
When Mac tried to copy Microsoft for a change and license their OS to third-party companies (yes, that happened), they nearly went bankrupt. Thats when Steve Jobs came back, put i in front of everything and made them trendier and more exclusive than ever.
Part of that process was opening an upscale boutique, part of it was innovating the shit out of some stuff (mp3 players, phones, what have yous), and part of it was developing the mythos that at the Mac offices, everyone rides razor scooters around with the Incredible family and somehow this updates Jaguar.
And guess what? Times are good again in the land of Mac.
But this strategy just wont work for the PC, and to convince you of that (lets be honest; Im talking to you, Bill), here are a list of key changes Microsoft will have to incorporate into their storefront to stay true to the Windows image if they want to compete with the Mac stores.
See? All youve really got going for you is the games thing and, frankly, paying for a series of giant warehouses and staff just to sell games you dont own the rights to isnt going to pay the mortgage on your hollowed out mountain.
If you absolutely must have a retail chain, youve got to pare down, stick to your strengths. I guess what Im saying is, open an arcade. Now theres a business model thats timely as ever. Now if youll excuse me, I have some Fallout 3 to play on my Virtual PC.
When not livin' it up 80s style, Michael serves as head writer for and co-founder of Those Aren't Muskets!