Landing in the Galleria, Perched Over the Ice Rink: Houston’s Microsoft Store

When it opens this summer, the new Microsoft Store in the Houston Galleria will be the company’s 10th retail location. Won’t that be awfully close to the Apple Store? That’s been part of the game plan since the folks behind Windows, Office, and the Xbox hatched their retail scheme in February 2009. The only Microsoft stores so far are in the booming metropolises of Scottsdale, Arizona; Mission Viejo, San Diego, and Costa Mesa, California; Lone Tree, Colorado; Oak Brook, Illinois; Bloomington, Minnesota (at the Mall of America); and the company’s hometown of Bellevue, Washington.

Photo: Microsoft

26 Comment

  • Their windows will turn blue and the whole store will crash.

  • @commonsense–

    You just leave the store and come back in again!

  • I saw baby jesus roller skating the other day.. Hims was FAST!!! WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

  • Eric: LOL!

    I’m just wondering if they’ll hire John Hodgeman for the opening. So, what, are they gonna, like, sell? Windoze… and… the Zune… and peripherals. They don’t… make… hardware…. They don’t have a tablet…. Oh, don’t they have some smartphone that the technorati have pooped all over? I guess they’ll sell MS Office for Home, MS Office for Homes with Pets, MS Office for a Student at Home, etc….

    I wonder… What MS product people will line up for days in advance to buy? Vista? Windows Phone? The Zune that didn’t work with the existing Windows OS when it was released?

    I know I’m coming off like a total Apple fangrrl, but Microsoft is overreaching here. I own Microsoft products. They’re not altogether horrible like they used to be. But they’re like toothbrushes—things you need but don’t want to shop for. Online store? Great. Available everywhere they sell electronics? Great. An aesthetic journey into all things Bill Gates? Uhhhh… Uhhh…. Nnnnnhhh… Yeah… No.

  • Also? Nothing says “We’re hip” like copycatting a pioneer seven years later.

  • kvan: Apple doesn’t make hardware either. Their is nothing special about Apple other than the pretty cases. Microsoft and Apple both make accessories like mice, keyboards, etc.

  • It ain’t about moving product. It is about keeping the brand out in the public eye and hopefully, for them at least, relevant.

  • Actually, Redmond, WA would be Microsoft’s hometown. They now have hundreds of acres and thousands of square feet of office space in Seattle, Issaquah, Redmond, Bellevue (these are all fairly close to each other), and elsewhere, but Redmond is where the headquarters is located.
    I could tell stories of interviews there, of the time my Dad went there and couldn’t figure out all these millionaires wearing blue jeans to work, of my multiple usability-testing assignments there… but I won’t hack the thread. :-)

  • “kvan: Apple doesn’t make hardware either. ”

    I was going to respond to this but my Mac vanished into thin air, once we all realized that Apple hardware doesn’t really exist. Which make their status as one of world’s largest and most profitable PC makers a really neat trick!

    I have huge respect for Microsoft and have worked with them as a partner, and I have to say: the Microsoft stores strike me as an utterly dumb move. It worked for Apple because they got short shrift in retail outlets, and the stores served as a showcase for them to show off their products in a controlled setting with knowledgeable staff, and create a physical extension of the experience of using their gear.

    Microsoft is in a totally different situation; they have a solid hold in the PC OS and application business, but failed to come up with a decent competitor for the iPod, they’ve bungled the phones several times running, and they appear to be doing the same with tablets. (That Android got so far ahead of them so fast should be a huge source of embarrassment to them.)

    They don’t really need these stores for the areas where they’re successful (gaming, for example) and the resources going into this could be deployed far better working with carriers on Windows Phone penetration (because they finally came up with a decent product there), investing in their search business, etc.

  • Their version of the Genius Bar will be constantly packed. Passersby will think it is a hip destination. The Galleria might have to add another garage.

  • I keep from becoming a fanboy for MS, Apple or Google by buying all of them. I have iPods, Ipads, Zunes, Windows Phone 7, multiple PCs, etc… I had an Android phone but got rid of it a few months ago. Wizardy on an Apple II+ is what really got me into computers.

    Microsoft is trying to copy Apple’s success in the home market with these stores. They realize that the PC vendors add bloatware to the computers they sell and it ruins the experience. I format every computer I get and install the OS myself. Windows is much better that way.

    It won’t work. Microsoft will never be cool. It amazes me how many stupid moves they make. Of course I never though Apple would make the comeback they did either. :)

    Windows Phone 7 beats the iPhone easily in the user interface. The Zune music store is leaps and bounds ahead of iTunes. That doesn’t matter though. Apple has almost always beaten MS in ease of use and they still can’t catch up in the business market. Having the better product doesn’t always mean you will win.

    I may stop by the MS store but it will probably be on my way to the Apple store.

  • Those other cities are all wealthy, and I suspect each of them has a huge mall (e.g., Costa Mesa has the biggest mall in California, South Coast Plaza)

  • jgriff has nailed it for me. The differentiator for Apple is the image of the thing. In terms of performance and functionality their products are at best equal to their competitors. But they have successfully sold us the idea that they are better and we just keep on buying them. Just remember though, your iphone is telling them where you are about 1000 times a day and there is an outside chance that the person who put it together later threw themselves out of a window because of Apple’s dreadful control of labor practices. Enjoy!

  • OK, I know Mac/PC arguments are boring – the cool kids are all fighting about Android vs iOS now – but the idea that it’s all “image” is just idiotic. Ask anybody who regularly uses the products and, whichever they prefer, they will tell you that there are differences.

    Smart product managers, which Apple clearly has lots of, know that “usability” is a feature as critical as any hardware spec, and Apple’s particularly good at putting user experience at the forefront of product requirements.

    The other piece is that the real competition is in things like phones and tablets where people have a very personal attachment to their device. So image does in fact matter there, as it does when people are buying all kinds other products. Including real estate!

  • YUCK.. so this is what’s occupying the former Barneys’ space?

    I am not a fan, but I do find that commonsense and eric’s comments are so dang funny, and fabulous.

  • Apple machines run commodity hardware stuffed into a fancy case. The only thing different is the operating system. Apple does make that… just like Microsoft does.

    I have 2 Macs and 3 PCs. I can run windows on the macs and OSX on the PCs with a small bit of effort.

    Apple is a hardware *vendor* just like Dell not a hardware manufacturor like Intel or AMD.

    You can call it splitting hairs but it just shows how absolutely effective Apple’s marketing strategy has been.

  • I wouldn’t call it “splitting hairs,” I’d call it “fundamentally misunderstanding the meanings of words.”

    Toyota’s not a carmaker, you know. Just a car vendor.

  • Zune is just the Zune marketplace now. They killed off the hardware development of Zune. But the UI lives on in Windows Phone 7. I hope it lives on even more as some type of netbook OS.

  • Take the lid off a PC and a Mac. What’s inside is exactly the same. The only difference is the chassis. Outside of the case, the only difference is the OS and the packing materiel.

  • And the fact that one was built by the largest and most powerful tech company in the world who wield almost complete control over what they allow on their systems…. whilst the other probably runs windows.

  • Internal components are not the same among all computers.

    You can put whatever OS on whatever computer you want. Getting it to run is the hard part.

  • From John:
    I wouldn’t call it “splitting hairs,” I’d call it “fundamentally misunderstanding the meanings of words.” ROTFL!

    @Personman: I disagree. Just because all 2.5″ hard drives are two-and-half inches and have platters inside (obviously not referring to SSDs) doesn’t mean that my Hitachi TravelStar 7200 RPM drive is the same as the POS drive that’s in our Dell laptop. Just because I can purchase 8GB of RAM for $30 doesn’t mean it will work (or that I’d trust it not to destroy my computer).

    Apple manufacturers hardware. They, as Jimbo said, maintain a tight grip over the manufacturing process and the OS-hardware operability precisely BECAUSE they DON’T have a glut of manufacturers for various components. For example, open up any Macintosh computer made since, I dunno, 2000, and you’ll find that the hard drive is one of three, perhaps four brands. Now crack 20 random IBM-compatible computers and tell me how many brands you come across. No, Apple doesn’t make cars and Honda doesn’t make tires. Or batteries. Or oil. Or fuel. Or belts. Or brakes…

    That’s Apple’s thing. And it’s worked. And the opposite strategy has been the bane and boon of Microsoft’s existence. It’s a Tower of Babel of sorts. You get too many different hardware components, drivers, etc., and it becomes almost impossible for them all to communicate. For example, on my fiancee’s high-end Dell the wireless card, made by Intel, was constantly being fought over by three different pieces of software. Or, when I wanted to change the screen res or color depth, I never knew whether to use the driver’s settings or the Windows settings. That’s superfluous. But I’ve digressed.

    Consider the fact that 60% of Windows users are still on XP. Think about that. Nearly two-thirds of MS’s customer base have opted to keep an OS that is more than 10 years old. That includes, incidentally, a large number of corporate users, so don’t chalk it up to cost.

    Anyway, as I said before I don’t hate Microsoft. They’ve certainly improved their products over the years. I’m not inclined to buy a PC (esp. cuz in a “PC World” benchmark test, Macs ran Windows faster than Pcs) or toss out the iPhone for a Windows phone, but we have two copies of Windows, three of MS Office, two keyboards, and so forth. If the Microsoft product were the better option for whatever task I needed accomplished, I’d choose it.

    Microsoft isn’t a consumer-driven organization. Apple didn’t set out to be one, but only by exploiting that niche were they able to gain such enviable market share. (I about fell out of my chair when I read that Apple is the largest PC maker!)

    Maybe that is Microsoft’s strategy with the retail outlet, but it seems to me that, as has been noted by previous posters, they better serve their core markets in places very far away from malls.

    Is no one remembering the runaway success of the Gateway stores?

  • My God these comments are painful to read.

  • Pick one of the most undersized Apple store locations, add one of the least interesting architecturally. We’ll put it there. More square footage means we’re better, right?

    “No, Apple doesn’t make cars and Honda doesn’t make tires. Or batteries. Or oil. Or fuel. Or belts. Or brakes…”

    Meant to say MICHELIN doesn’t make cars. DOH!

  • So Barneys will be replaced by a Microsoft store? The leasing managment in the Galleria needs to be fired, plenty of spots around to house this store but to be put in next to Armani and the new Prada is just ridiculous. Someone needs to be fired ASAP.