London: Microsoft has examined the European market as the next region to open its flagship retail outlets as the US technology giant bolsters its roster of devices and appliances across its software platforms.
Microsoft has spoken to property landlords in the UK about plans to open stores next year. The company has said that it is confident about launching the first outlets during 2013, according to one person familiar with the talks, although a decision is pending an assessment of how its US stores are performing. A spokesman for the company declined to comment.
The company would be following a strategy that has been successfully rolled out by Apple, which uses its shops as much as brand showcases as a means of selling devices. The difference is that Microsoft also sells devices made by other companies, such as the Nokia and HTC phones that use its Windows operating system as well as PCs and other hardware.
Even so, the company is increasingly producing its own devices that run on its software, including the recently launched Surface tablet that runs on Windows 8. There has been talk among the large mobile phone operators that the company is also looking to make its own smartphone handset, while last week it emerged that it was planning to launch a set-top TV box that would use its Windows 8 operating system and also play games over its Xbox Live platform. Xbox TV will be available next year although the company has not given a date and price.
Microsoft will conduct an internal review at the end of this year that will study how well the stores in the US have performed, and which formats have worked best. The company has rolled out both permanent stores as well as temporary “pop-ups” that just sell devices around the holiday seasons. The group has already opened stores outside the US in Canada and Puerto Rico.
The Microsoft stores in the US offer free classes and training for its software and how it runs on various devices, which is useful in establishing the unique Windows “tile” interface among customers more used to the Apple and Android platforms.
Microsoft wants to create a digital “ecosystem” similar to Apple’s and Google’s Android, and already has a large number of phones that use the Windows system as well as its tablet. Nokia, in particular, claims a special relationship having formed an exclusive deal to make smartphones that use Microsoft’s software. There are also accessories such as cordless charging units that are sold alongside the latest range of Nokia phones.