Monday, February 16th, 2009 at 10:11am

Microsoft to Open Its Own Retail Stores

Posted by Jordan Erickson

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,492864,00.html?sPage=fnc/scitech/person

SEATTLE – Microsoft Corp. on Thursday announced plans to open its own stores despite the economic downturn that has left many retailers struggling.

The company hired David Porter, a 25-year veteran of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., as its corporate vice president of retail stores. Porter was head of worldwide product distribution at DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. since 2007.

Porter, who is set to start work on Tuesday, is charged with improving the PC-buying experience.

The company said his first task will be to set the timing, locations and design of Microsoft-branded retail stores, which will sell computers installed with Microsoft software as well as other company products.

Microsoft has been working to revive the image of its ubiquitous Windows operating system, starting with a $300 million advertising campaign that began last fall.

Vista, the most recent version of the software, was widely criticized for being slow, requiring new and more expensive hardware, and not working with devices like printers and scanners. Vista has also been the subject of a series of snarky television ads from Apple Inc.

At the same time it launched upbeat new TV ads last fall, some of which struck right back at Apple, Microsoft posted 144 of its own employees in electronics chain stores around the world to talk with shoppers about Windows.

The “Gurus” seemed to be Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s in-store “Genius Bar.” With its newly announced retail store intentions, the Redmond-based software maker is taking yet another page from Apple’s play book.

Apple credits its stores, concentrated mostly in the U.S., for helping boost its profile and draw new customers.

But Microsoft’s timing may be off. The U.S. recession has socked the retail sector, and purveyors of electronics have been hit hard.

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