Microsoft is sparing no expense to hype its newest piece of hardware, the Surface RT tablet, which arrived on store shelves on October 26. The company is reportedly spending more than $1 billion on advertising the Surface and its new operating system, Windows 8.
Michael Homnick: This pop-up store in San Francisco's Westfield Center is one of 34 that Microsoft has opened up around the country.
Microsoft has also extended its retail reach beyond its existing 34 outlets by opening 30 pop-up stores to sell the Surface through the holidays.
The company has a tough hill to climb with its tablet. While anecdotal and empirical research indicate that the Surface is garnering interest from those already familiar with Microsoft, hard numbers aren't quite as encouraging. A recent poll of 1,200 American adults conducted by the Associated Press and GfK, found that 69 percent of those surveyed have no interest in buying a Surface tablet. More than half of the poll's respondents had never even heard of Windows 8.
Of course, that poll was conducted before Microsoft's Surface and Windows 8 launch event, which may have increased public awareness since then. The pop-up stores could contribute to that effort as well--and maybe lead to more sales for Microsoft.
To see how Microsoft's pop-up efforts were paying off, we dropped in on a couple of the stores. Our first stop was at the Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas, the tourism mecca of the United States. Occupying a kiosk squished between an oxygen bar and some benches, this Microsoft pop-up outlet within shouting distance of the Vegas Strip offered the chance to gauge customer interest in the Surface.
Michael HomnickTouch Covers and Type Covers are also on hand in Microsoft's pop-up stores.
The Las Vegas store had eight stations set up for people to try out the tablet, and plenty of employees were on-hand on a busy weekend afternoon to walk them through the idiosyncrasies of swiping and typing on the Surface. We didn't see many purchases, but the kiosk teemed with people examining the product and peppering employees with questions.
Eric Clum, a 39-year-old software developer from Columbus, Ohio, was in Las Vegas for the weekend and decided to test the Surface to see if it would fit his business and personal needs. Clum said he wasn't sure what to expect of the Surface, given that Microsoft has never before ventured into hardware design, but was pleased with the tablet's slick appearance and its kickstand.
Still, he walked away from the store on Sunday empty-handed. "I'm waiting to see if [his employer] will buy it for us," Clum said. If not, Clum said, he'll buy his own.
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