A two-story video tower is the centerpiece of Microsoft's flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York, opening on Oct. 26, 2015. Credit: Marc Ferranti
Six years after stepping into the retail market with smaller mall outlets, Microsoft is literally taking the wraps off its flagship store on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue on Monday, the same day as the general release of its Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book devices.
The new flagship, along with a Sydney store due to open in time for the holiday season, signals a global expansion and renewed commitment to reaching out to customers through retail as key Windows 10 devices ship into a flagging PC market.
For the Fifth Avenue store's grand opening, Microsoft plans deals on Surface devices, the lowest price anywhere for XBox One consoles and accessories, Microsoft Band 2 purchase before the Oct. 30 general availability, a performance by rapper Pitbull at Rockefeller Center in the evening and a "Halo 5: Guardians" midnight launch event. The new store will also be the only one, for the moment, where consumers can see HoloLens and Surface Hub displayed.
The store itself, unveiled in a curtain-dropping ceremony at noon local time, is just a few blocks south of Apple's flagship, the now-iconic giant glass cube encasing the Apple logo.
Overall, Microsoft seems to have emulated the sleek ambience of the Apple stores. The glass facade of the Fifth Avenue store, erected with minimal structural attachments so as to seem to disappear when you enter, allows light to flood into three floors of retail space, complete with streamlined, Scandinavian-designed type tables and an "Answer Desk," the company's response to Apple's Genius Bar.
The interior of Microsoft's flagship Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan, with the street-facing windows still under wraps right before the grand opening on Oct. 26, 2015. Credit: Marc Ferranti
On a pre-opening press tour of the store, the space at first glance seemed to be a bit busier than what you experience in Apple stores -- with possibly more, and smaller, clusters of tables -- but not unpleasantly so. Microsoft has emphasized video displays, placing 198 LCD monitors throughout three floors and a 30-foot, two-story video tower with 36 monitors acting as the store's centerpiece.
"It would be bad to compete directly with Apple," said eMarketer retail analyst Yoram Wurmser. "Apple has had incredible success peddling luxury to consumers in the form of technology products that have become a status symbol."
The large footprint of the new store gives Microsoft a chance to create unique branding that it hasn't been able to in small outlets or with third-party retail partners, Wurmser said.
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