Microsoft Retail Stores: Five Reasons They Could SucceedThe VAR Guy previously bashed Microsoft for building training partnerships with lame retail chains like CompUSA. Now, it's time to give Microsoft some credit -- even if the company is once again following Apple's lead, this time into the retail store market. Here are five reasons the Microsoft Store concept could work.

1. Brand Control: If Microsoft wants to control the messaging and positioning of Windows 7, launching Microsoft Stores with trained Microsoft employees -- Windows Evangelists, in fact -- is a great way to go.

2. Best of the Best: Ever wonder which desktops, laptops and netbooks are best equipped to run Windows 7? Hopefully, Microsoft will only display the best-designed, Windows-certified systems in the stores -- even if the systems come from small, little-known manufacturers.

3. Winning Back ISVs (Independent Software Vendors): Conventional wisdom says everyone is busy writing Internet applications. But there are still thousands of developers writing new and innovative Windows applications. When Windows 7 launches, Microsoft better work overtime to promote the best ISVs in its stores.

4. Winning Back Peripheral Makers: Which printers, scanners and digital cameras really work with Windows 7? Display only the best of the best in the Microsoft Stores.

5. Winning Back the Customer: Some customers will never forgive Microsoft for The Windows Vista debacle. Online advertising, social media and TV advertising could assist the Windows 7 cause. But ultimately, face-to-face discussions within the friendly confines of a Microsoft Store could help Microsoft to win back customers.

6. The Gamer Crowd: This was supposed to be a top 5 list. But here's the bonus entry: As Microsoft continues to build the Xbox franchise, the company needs to stay in front of kids and up-and-coming gamers. The Microsoft Store could provide the ultimate game room for that effort.

Of course, all of these benefits also come with significant risks. For instance, how will Microsoft:
  • Pick and choose the most appropriate third-party products to display and demonstrate in its own stores?
  • Recruit, train -- and retain -- retail employees?
  • Balance in-store service contracts with potential competition from local small business VARs and integrators?
  • Avoid alienating Best Buy and other powerful retail partners?
Hmmm. Pulling off The Microsoft Store concept won't be easy. But it's a worthwhile effort considering how badly Microsoft needs to speak -- face to face-- with some frustrated consumers to win back their trust.

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