Sticking with the technology theme on the Barber blog this week – Microsoft’s first serious foray into hardware design – the Surface Tablet with Windows 8 launched in the UK a couple of weeks ago and over in the US they are demonstrating their intention as a serious contender in the tablet market against competitors Apple and Samsung with an estimated 1 billion dollar advertising budget and a foray into the pop-up retail market with the launch of 32 pop-up shops.
Microsoft currently has 34 dedicated retail outlets in the US so the new pop-up stores which will only be open in the lead-up to Christmas will double their opportunity for face-to-face sales in shopping malls and other retail centres.
The pop-up stores are generally following the same minimalist retail design approach – with an open-ended sales desk and a selection of Surface Tablets set in distinctive illuminated perspex displays for people to try, alongside a selection of Surface accessories including their distinctive kickstand style keyboard/cases.
As well as providing a platform for the interested and curious to try the Surface before they potentially buy, Microsoft also want people who purchase one of their tablets to get it out and try it before they take it home. This ‘out-of-box’ pop-up retail experience is intended to encourage first-time buyers to familiarise themselves with their new toy before they leave the store. Although each unit comes complete with a tutorial, most people prefer a hands-on approach -with a personally guided exploration of the main features of the new hardware and operating system.
As both Windows 8 and the Surface are completely new products most people will have no frame of reference for trying them apart from what they may know about other similar tablets or operating systems. Staff at the stores guide them through setting up their email and cloud services on their new device and are on hand to answer questions from returning customers during the remainder of the holiday period.
Here in the UK we still don’t have any dedicated Microsoft retail stores and at the time of writing no planned Microsoft pop-up stores. According to one source they will be opening their first dedicated retail store in London in March 2013 – possibly too late to corner the British tablet market this Christmas but showing a change of direction for the Software giant – who suffered their first losses this year – as we move into a new era of convenient, mobile computing based on cloud-connected mobile devices.