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Microsoft to permanently close its retail stores (theverge.com)
489 points by snake117 on June 26, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 277 comments

This is a real shame. We have (had?) a Microsoft Store in the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham), and my visits to that store were always really enjoyable.

I made several warranty claims in-store, and they went above and beyond to help me out, even when my grounds for a claim were kinda shaky.

Microsoft did a really good job of hiring diverse talent, and every store-clerk I ever interacted with was smart, nice, and seemed to genuinely care about fixing your issue. Throughout the day, they held tech demos and video game competitions, and all the kids I saw in the store always seemed to be enjoying themselves. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that a kid visiting the Microsoft store in the mall was inspired to learn more about computers and technology based on their experience.

This sucks.

Same with the SF Westfield Center store. Great staff. It was a good place to check out various Surfaces in person as well.

I will say, the surfaces/laptops side of the store was usually empty. Some kids playing with the Xbox or people at the counter getting help seemed to be the extent of traffic the past couple of years.

They seem to be aggressively destroying any paltry remaining goodwill with consumer enthusiasts. I'm sure it's great for the bottom line, but is the ultimate goal to only be competing with Google and AWS on who can run the cheapest Linux VMs in the cloud ?

I don't really see the connection. If the only traffic to the stores was a handful of people, how can this have any significant effect on customer good will? They can't be both empty and influential.

It seems like the stores were a missed opportunity, but they always had the odds stacked against them. Whatever you can get in an MS store, you could get a much cheaper alternative running the same software at another electronic goods store or online. I suspect the theoretical opportunity was really a mirage and never really there.

While I agree with your premise, I think that the availability of a store is a form of goodwill. You are given more confidence in a product if you know there's a place where you can go when things go wrong, or if you want to see something for real, and not just rely on some rendered image on a screen.

There's an Apple Store a few blocks from me. I've never been there. But I like knowing I have the option.

> There's an Apple Store a few blocks from me. I've never been there. But I like knowing I have the option.

Right - I feel like almost any city I'm going to for a conference will have an Apple store I can pop into if I have a problem.

What do you do if you have a ThinkPad or System76 and you get a problem while at a conference? I guess you're out of luck and on your own.

I have no idea for System 76, but for less than the cost of AppleCare, you can get next business day onsite service for your ThinkPad.

I find that more convenient than taking your laptop to the store.

> It seems like the stores were a missed opportunity, but they always had the odds stacked against them.

Odds were against Microsoft stores being profitable because Microsoft is now an underdog in consumer tech. If you want hardware (possibly with the exception of xbox; I just do not know, never had one), Microsoft is rarely the name that jumps to mind. But this is exactly why Microsoft should keep them (using some profits from OS and software), even at a loss, to provide demos and let folks play with their toys. Not doing this means riding much more on inertia of existing corporate Windows 10 and Office installations. This is very profitable and still has a lot of inertia, but abandoning consumer tech is putting a $1.5 trillion dollar company into a more vulnerable long-term position.

But is it actually serving a purpose if not enough people are actually going into the stores, at the demos and playing with the toys?

I don't think this is abandoning consumer tech. Their ~90% domination is still a thing. They gained it without stores, and the stores weren't helping them maintain it.

There seems to be this cognitive lag where it seems like the stores should be a big deal, should be significant, giving them up should say something about Microsoft's position in the industry. A lot of commentary can't shake that perception. The reality though is it never was any of those things.

I think that an interesting part of that lag is directly Windows Phone related. Phones seem to be the one consumer hardware product that customers "demand" a store to exist. Look at the retail landscape, other than big box electronics stores and office stores and Wal-Mart/Target, who is selling consumer electronics physically? There's a lot of strip malls packed with phone stores. People that want PC laptops/desktops mostly buy directly from OEMs on their websites. People that want Xboxes or PlayStations are fine grabbing it at Target, but more likely Amazon today.

Phones for various reasons (and a lot of them are phone carrier bureaucracy related, I would imagine) "need" that extra bit of handholding, that service relationship when buying one. Even Apple Stores, the vast majority of the store space is devoted to phone sales and services and laptops/desktops an after-thought. If you hear of lines and busy days of Apple Stores, it is almost exclusively phones.

Microsoft created their Stores just too many months too late to save the Windows Phone after the main US carriers decided 3 OSes was one too many options to carry in their own stores. Once Microsoft Stores were no longer selling Phones they always had less reason to exist, mostly existed already as either Xbox Experiences or shadow versions of (for instance) Best Buy's Surface section, without the rewards/brand loyalty of something like Best Buy.

Haven't really been a console person for a long while... That said, I pretty much favor big-box stores for a few different items namely game consoles, televisions and monitors. It's likely just my own anecdotal bias here, but I've had more of these die in the first month of use than any other electronics, and having a place I can go to "now" to get it replaced is usually a huge deal.

When the first X-box came out, the first one died within an hour of use... the second in about two days, the third is still running (or was last time I looked at it). 1/3 of TVs or Monitors I've mail ordered have been doa or didn't make it a month.

In the end, I really do hope some of them survive as there's something to be said for not mail order. Costco is usually really decent, and Best Buy is sometimes really frustrating, but I like having some options even if I don't like buying in person and would prefer mail order.

Anecdotally I'm in a similar place. I believe that Amazon's electronics "department" is little better than eBay these days and the amount of digging just keeps increasing that you need to do to figure out who is actually selling the device, what their business model is, and if you can trust their listing. (Are they a warehouse arbitrage just moving stuff from Wal-Mart/Target/Costco/etc around, based on who has the highest current price? Are they a nearly defunct old Mom & Pop shop whose only livelihood is now an Amazon and/or eBay shingle? Are they a refurbisher shop that has the gall to label "like new" items as "new" because Amazon's algorithms and mechanical turks haven't caught them yet? Etc.)

That said, I've been charged with being weirdly "old school" that I'd often rather pay extra at Best Buy than just order it for cheap on Amazon. (I've needed to replace a PC monitor since March, but keep procrastinating it because I don't want to buy it online.)

I mostly only buy if Amazon is the seller... at least returns are pretty consistent that way, though still subject to mingling. Same goes for using newegg... was really sad when newegg added 3rd party sellers, it muddied the site.

Thing to watch out for is that Amazon often is the shipper but not the seller and some of Amazon's greedier dark patterns make it tough sometimes to notice that a product that looks sold by Amazon just means it is shipped by Amazon. (It's one of the UX things were they have to be clear about it but are fighting themselves with how clear to be. Both phrases "sold by" and "shipped by" start with "s" end with "by" and you certainly have to imagine Amazon counts on you skimming the middle parts in some of their UI layouts.) Outside of "Amazon Basics" brand products, Amazon directly sells almost no electronics, from my anecdata, but they certainly ship for a large percentage of their 3rd party sellers (because of course they do, that's the easiest way to make items Prime Eligible and thus further their Amazon SEO quotients).

Though Amazon can be credited that they are consistent with returns in "shipped by" products as much as they are with "sold by" products. At least there their attempts at confusing the marketplace means they hold up some standards universally as well.

I'm pretty careful about that... I will almost always only order if Amazon (or the mfg) is the seller... and even then, I still favor Amazon (mostly for return hassles).

> Phones for various reasons (and a lot of them are phone carrier bureaucracy related, I would imagine)

IMHO the real issue is the size of the audience. Phones get sold to people who would never buy a computer, "non-technicals" to a level that desktops and laptops never really touched.

These folks 1) need a lot of help choosing what to buy, 2) have a relationship with these items that is not driven by tech specs but by "feels", 3) buy stuff primarily in shops, not from websites.

I think the "retail demand" for phones is closely connected to phone repairs. Unlike a computer, a phone is carried around every day and has a much higher chance to break. Customers depend heavily on it, so they are not willing to send phones to repair centers and wait weeks for a return.

In Canada, retail phone stores are kind of an artificial construct. There are only three large national carriers, but they all have multiple flanker brands and subsidiaries, so a mall will frequently have seven or eight phone stores by the same three companies in order to carpet bomb consumer consciousness. This isn't useful for consumers in any way - they're effectively just paying for redundant staff and infrastructure via inflated monthly plan prices.

They did that when they failed/gave up the phone business. Affected MS retail in the long term. Pulled out one leg from the stool, metaphorically.

It's about presence and exposure. For people (like me) who use mostly Apple products and block ads on the internet, the Microsoft products aren't really on my mind. Having a store close by that I can visit certainly increases exposure to these products.

It's surprising how my own attitude changes depending on if it's online: if I see an ad for Microsoft or other brands on the Internet, I'd feel irate and start to wonder why my ad blocker stopped working. But if I see a Microsoft store taking up thousands of square feet, I don't mind its presence and would totally check it out if I am not busy.

You have a hard time escaping the advertising online; you can just leave the store.

A helpdesk that helps you well and doesn’t have queues provides lots of goodwill, even when you don’t use it often.

Such a helpdesk is expensive, though, the more so if you put it in a building in a premium location.

In Apple’s case, that’s paid for by sales. I imagine Microsoft didn’t manage to do that, if only because they have less hardware to sell.

I used to check out the Surfaces as I walked by the windows of that store and for a while considered buying one. I didn't but it did have a (mildly) positive on my perception of MS while I lived in SF.

Was it low traffic or low sales traffic? Helpdesk traffic is unlikely to drive much in terms of immediate sales, but establishing a good helpdesk that can be trusted is very key to trust in the brand. And helpdesk is usually a get in, drop your laptop off, get out and pick it up later type of thing.

Agreed. I had a great walk in help desk experience with resetting a Surface. I otherwise like the Surface, but, if you search online, you can see some models seem to have an intermittant mystery power up glitch. Knowing there was a store a few minutes away that could reset the device would give me confidence to purchase another one without hesitation.

"Same with the SF Westfield Center store. Great staff. It was a good place to check out various Surfaces in person as well."

Agreed - about that specific store. However, I must reflect that after years of going there with my children, we spent exactly zero dollars there.

We had fun and played video games and hung out and futzed around with various "exotic" computing devices from MS ... and we never had any intention of buying anything.

I always got the impression the schools were like after-school daycare for kids. A lot of the demo computers as well as the demo XBoxes were always full of kids playing Minecraft, Overwatch, etc. The other ones might have kids watching Youtube or Twitch (never Mixer) of the same types of games.

> I will say, the surfaces/laptops side of the store was usually empty. Some kids playing with the Xbox or people at the counter getting help seemed to be the extent of traffic the past couple of years.

Exactly my experience last I visited. It seemed like the goal of the stores was misconceived from the start... like the purpose was to coax Surface into being a successful product, rather than build up a real store business of its own.

Agree on "this is a real shame" feeling. I am not, in general, a heavy Microsoft user: my workstations both at home and in the office run Linux. But a few years ago, when I saw a Microsoft Surface tablet when I walked by the Microsoft store as I was waiting for my wife at the mall I was wowed by its ergonomics.

Within three months I bought one as a personal travel laptop and another one for work as my main laptop. An extended family member saw my Surface and bought one. Two people at work saw my work Surface and bought theirs for work. Having a Windows-only travel laptop made me look at WSL and I saw that while it was not perfect it is surprisingly useful which also surprised some die-hard Linux folks at work when they saw it. None of this would have happened if I did not walk by that Microsoft store; I would be buying another Dell laptop for work and griping about its lousy ergonomics.

Interestingly for me it was almost the opposite experience. I got really excited about the Surface Book and was really close to buy one, then a couple days later I walked past the Microsoft Store on Oxford Street and saw one in real life and was extremely shocked/disappointed how huge, heavy and really really thick it is. It made me realise how unportable this portable device is and I never thought again of buying a Surface book. I think the latest Surface Book still has that monster big ass fist thick hinge and I'm not surprised that I haven't seen a single person with a Surface Book in a coffee shop yet. It's too big for being a portable device. So in some respect, the physical store has meant that they sold one device less in my case.

I see it as a good thing for both you and the Microsoft. The fact that you had a chance to play with it before buying it (and hated it) means that Microsoft avoided either really pissing off a customer or handling an expensive return; and possibly both.

For me, I wanted a surface pro (not book) with the largest screen available, so I ended up with the Surface Pro 4 and the keyboard -- I use it as a travel laptop, not an on-the-go device, and really love being able to have a decent keyboard and display when I am in a hotel without having to put a 4 lb monster into my backpack when I fly.

The hinge first looks neat but it makes the folded Book quite think. Really not a good design. In general I am having lots of problems with my work Surface Book 2. It constantly runs out of USB resources even with the dock and multi screen setup are quite finicky. Sometimes one screen doesn’t wake up until I reboot the whole setup. For its premium price I am quite disappointed.

I have the book and it's fantastic, it's really NOT an unltrabook and is meant to be a workstation. The Book 3 even comes with a Quadro GPU

I was also a fan of the early Surface Pros, although I didn't like the larger form factor of the later models. The early models were small enough to fit in a big coat pocket.

I agree, but I kinda feel like the relaxed and comfortable atmosphere was more of an indication that the stores weren’t doing so hot. Every time I went to one is was because it was quieter and lower key than other stores. And I never actually wanted to buy things. Maybe that’s good(ish) marketing but probably doesn’t make good business sense.

That may be the case. I rarely go inside my local mall (Southpoint, Durham NC), but on sunny weekends the Apple store was often jam-packed with people. So busy that customers had a hard time getting through the door. Sales people talking non-stop and processing orders as fast as possible. There was a Microsoft store inside the main mall building, just a few minutes away. I walked by it a few times, but it was usually empty.

Good god the Southpoint Apple store is terrible. I went there once because I wanted to buy a new iPad and apple pencil so I could participate in a digital painting workshop the next day, and they wanted me to wait 45 minutes before they would help me. I said that I wasn't going to wait that long and hopefully wasn't an asshole about it (it's never cool to be a jerk to retail employees!) and they did manage to ring me up within about 5 minutes.

The experience was just so weirdly baffling and frustrating and I've since avoided the place. I realize this sounds like the height of American consumer entitlement but it was truly bizarre that the response to "Hi I would like to hand you more than $1,200" was "please wait 45 minutes."

Then there was also the confusion about who to actually to talk to in the first place if you wanted to buy something. Do I talk to the person at the door? Nope, because I don't have an appointment. I should just stand in a corner and hope someone finally talks to me. It was truly amazing that Apple could so thoroughly botch the experience of exchanging money for goods.

I've had a couple decent experiences in the Apple store in Chandler, AZ mall. First was a battery replacement in-warranty, second was a pickup, then a return/exchange. The battery replacement did take longer than I would have preferred about half an hour, but not bad in general. A few years later, I got a mid-2014 rmbp, and didn't know they'd soldered on the RAM and that the storage wasn't upgradeable... wound up forking over for a top end model.

Of course with each progressive release being a little more cumbersome, and never really liking iOS devices. Some of the security locks that you can't turn off (enabled 2fa then sold off one of my two devices, don't know how the 2fa code got delivered to the device I was trying to re-log into, but was lucky in the end). I gifted my last mbp this past xmas, and haven't looked back.

I am mostly on my desktop or work issued laptop now. Hoping to see an upper-mid to high-end Ryzen model with at least 64gb ram and at least an RTX 2070 level gpu. All the current gen Ryzen laptops are seriously gimped in one way or another.

I had a similar experience a couple years ago with a $2k MacBook Pro, except they did the whole spiel.

“No, please! I want to give you money. Can I please give you money now?”

South point Apple has always been painful - I avoided it like the plague. I think it’s the only store in the area besides Charlotte.

Crabtree has one too. It's just as crowded and awful.

I mean, these were obviously set up as a (marketing) counterpoint to the Apple stores, but Apple stores aren't just marketing. In any given mall, Apple stores usually have the highest revenue per square foot - they even beat out the jewelry stores. Microsoft was never going to be able to sell enough surface tables and xboxes for this to be viable long-term.

Agree. MS is mainly an OEM and enterprise co focused on TCO, etc. over consumer polish.

That's a good point. I hate going to the Apple store because you pretty much have to get in line behind a dozen other people for the privilege of buying a $1000 phone or $2500 laptop. The Microsoft store down the block was always super chill by comparison...

Being able to inspect hardware before buying is a good idea, even if you do put the order in online.

I have funny story of being helped in a Microsoft store.

I once bought a BLU Windows Phone in a Microsoft store. I really liked having a Windows Phone mostly because no one I ever met had seen one before and both Apple and Android users were shocked when they saw it. :)

After a few years my phone's battery indicator started failing, or at least that's what I think the problem was. The phone would suddenly say it was almost out of battery and had to shut down. When I restarted it the battery indicator would say some more reasonable number, consistent with how long ago I had charged the phone; but after a little while, long before it should have been running out of battery, it would again say it had almost no battery left and turn itself off.

I thought the phone's problem wasn't too serious yet and with some vigilance (checking it frequently to turn it on as soon as it turned itself off) I could use it a little longer. But my wife thought it was time for me to get a new phone, so I went to a Microsoft store only to discover they didn't sell them anymore. I think by then everyone had decided to give up on Windows Phones; I still valued what was their main selling point for me, the shock value, and would have gladly bought another!

At the store I started chatting a bit about my phone with the clerk who told me they didn't sell Windows Phones anymore, a heavyset young man. At some point I wanted to show him something on the phone so I took it out of my pocket but fumbled and dropped the phone. When the clerk saw I was about to drop the phone near him, he lifted the leg nearest the phone, but lost his balance and brought his foot down hard, right on my phone!

After that the phone wouldn't turn on anymore. The clerk was very apologetic and seemed willing to pay at least partially to replace my phone but I insisted that I was about to replace it anyway. I went somewhere else and bought myself a cheap Android phone. My wife was very happy the clerk had stepped on my Windows Phone since I had the left the house unconvinced it needed immediate replacement.

but lost his balance and brought his foot down hard, right on my phone!

That shouldn't be a problem.[1]

[1] https://youtu.be/mVPku-xItv8

>After a few years my phone's battery indicator started failing, or at least that's what I think the problem was.

You describe the classic symptoms of a failing battery. The charging efficiency of a battery at the end of its life drops through the floor. This confuses the columb counter in the charge indicator: it sees an amp hour go into the battery, but most of it becomes heat, and maybe ten percent is useful charge. Therefore, the battery indicator happily says the battery is at 90% right up to when it abruptly dies.

No, my phone's battery indicator reported a much lower number than what I knew to be true. Say I fully charged the battery and turned on the phone. The indicator would start at 100% and go slowly down as I expected. Then at some point, around 70% the indicator would suddenly jump down to a much lower number, say 30%. If I kept using the phone the indicator would slowly go down at the expected rate, until at some point it would suddenly jump down to like 4%. The phone would then warn me it has extremely low battery and turn itself off.

Now, at this point I could estimate what the true remaining percentage was, just based on how long I had been using the phone. If often turned itself off when I reckoned it should be at 60%. If I turned the phone on again without charging it at all, the battery indicator would tell me that it did indeed have around the 60% charge I estimated.

The battery seemed to be holding charge just fine. If I added up all the usage I got out of a single charge, that time seemed to be about the same as before (a little over a day), it was just interrupted by several rounds of the phone thinking it had no battery left, turning itself on, me turning it on again and the phone sheepishly recognizing then it actually did have a lot of charge left.

Sorry if I didn't explain this understandably in the original comment.

Behold in terror and glory the lithium-ion discharge curve: https://siliconlightworks.com/image/data/Info_Pages/Li-ion%2...

This is great for the powered device, since it's nice and flat, but annoying for determining state of charge from terminal voltage, since it's awful and flat. I have not personally developed a state-of-charge indicator, but I would guess that one might use columb counting for the first half of the curve, then voltage monitoring for the second half, introducing odd discontinuities in the 80%-30% range. A truly clapped out battery will up and die before it got to the second half; a merely old battery will just be strange and inconsistent.

>If I turned the phone on again without charging it at all, the battery indicator would tell me that it did indeed have around the 60% charge I estimated.

Another delightful behavior of battery cells is "voltage sag". Battery voltage drops under load. The more current you draw, the bigger the drop. If you draw a big whack of current, then leave the battery alone, the voltage will drift back up: https://www.powerstream.com/x/Christopher-Suozzo-engine-cran... Additionally, the more you ask of a battery, the less capacity it will have https://www.cloudynights.com/uploads/monthly_09_2014/post-21... (1C is 1x the capacity rating of the battery. A 1C discharge of a 2 amp hour battery is 2 amps, 2C 4 amps, etc) and the shorter its lifespan will be https://www.batteryuniversity.com/_img/content/DST-cycles-we...

Combine these factors, we discover that while your phone was behaving very unintuitively, it might not have been lying. If you hit an old cell phone with a big enough draw, (prime95, bitcoin mining, opening a cnn.com story without adblock) the battery indicator could correctly say that only 4% of the battery is left. Shut it off, letting the battery recover a bit, then turn it back on, and ta dah, by the voltage curve with a light idle discharge, it's got 60% left.

Cell phone batteries generally last two or three years. Four years+ requires light discharges and not recharging it fully. Essentially, not using it at all.

Interesting! I thought the battery itself wasn't the problem mainly because the battery life hadn't gone down (I was still getting the same number of hours between charges if you added up the time my phone was on), but I also didn't know the symptoms I did see were consistent with battery problems. Thanks!

That's sad but hilarious! I think that young man was Microsoft personified!

(I'm not a hater - owned 2 Windows Phones myself, but MS's strategy always seemed self-defeating in the Phone space)

I wish announcements were more straightforward. I’m looking at their announcement but can’t figure out what they mean by:

“...We will continue to co-locate engineering, sales, support, envisioning centers, executive briefing centers, and retail spaces for maximum impact for our customers and our company.”

What does that actually mean in real terms?

They will keep a support team (not just salespeople) near big customers where it would be better to employ people locally compared to having to send support staff from Redmond each time a customer has a problem.

Probably something along the lines of GeekSquad inside BestBuy.

Agree! I used to walk through the store in Century City at lunch to see what was new in laptops, headsets, etc. They often had classes or lots of kids doing something on the computer. I made a few purchases there including a Surface tablet for my son that has been a great piece of hardware.

Maybe this is the opening for someone else to come up with an experiential computer store. I hope so.

> I made several warranty claims in-store, and they went above and beyond to help me out, even when my grounds for a claim were kinda shaky.

Maybe having a physical store that lowers the barrier for making warranty claims, especially “shaky” ones, isn’t a profit maker.


Maybe having a physical store that lowers the barrier for making warranty claims, especially “shaky” ones, isn’t a profit maker.

Cost to fix a shaky piece of kit: $100

Future sale made because someone is happy with your service: $1,000

While I like to blame this sort of myopic thinking on SV, it seems like an entire generation, or two, has forgotten that if you make someone happy today, you've made a customer for life.

This was car sales 101 in the 1950's and 60's.

For car sales it makes sense because with car sales, comes car repair and service. And this is where the dealers make money individual car sales are not that profitable.

> Cost to fix a shaky piece of kit: $100

if they spend an hour or two fixing a screen your kid smashed for free, the screen costs $30-$50 wholesale, 1-2 hrs of labor, and fixed costs for the day like power, insurance, lease payment, etc...

And if they just have to click some setting, the parts cost is $0, and the labor is already factored into the person already being there.

Really? SV takes this to the extreme. The never make money, give out tons of coupons, charge super low prices, kind of strategy. If anything, SV is too far-sighted, not myopic.

Capturing markets (or trying) by burning VC money is different than trying to build customer loyalty with good service. VC fueled business cares about market share/profit potential, not profitability.

Ms stores were a really sad sight at the malls when not positioned far enough from Apple stores. Maybe they should try Xbox store or something else that does not remind ppl of work

A fellow Raleigh-Durham-ite! The Microsoft store in Southpoint is/was indeed pretty great... But, the Apple store nearby always has much more traffic.

I don't spend a lot of time in malls, but I've passed Microsoft Stores maybe six or seven times. My observation has been that they're always located as close to the Apple Store as possible, and that they are virtually empty, compared to the Apple Store.

I remember one day it was particularly stark. There was a line to get in at the Apple Store (not a launch day), and there were only employees inside the Microsoft Store. It was then I realized that the Microsoft Store wasn't about selling things, it was just a branding exercise.

>Microsoft did a really good job of hiring diverse talent, and every store-clerk I ever interacted with was smart, nice, and seemed to genuinely care about fixing your issue

This was my experience as well. As a bonus, my kiddo always wanted to stop into the Microsoft store. There was something warm and inviting about it, especially in comparison to the Apple store (we lived about 1/2 a block from each).

Same as my experience. While it was admittedly usually dead inside my local store, the clerks were happy to hang out and talk shop, super generous with freebies like t-shirts and the actual buying process was very smooth. As much as I complain about Microsoft, they did a very good job with their stores.

that’s the first I’ve heard of that area called “the triangle.” mind sharing what it’s significant for and what kind of person would fit? I’ve considered moving to the SE for better weather and job opportunities as a new grad.

To provide a counterpoint to the other commenters, I quite like the Triangle! (As someone who has lived there for several years now.)

I attend one of the major universities (NC State) but plan to stay here after I graduate. The three major municipalities (Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Durham) are different enough and have a wide variety of suburbs around them to offer a lot of options for different price points, if you're planning on moving here.

I've met lots of different people in the area, and there are tons of things to do. Lots of good food.

The traffic isn't that bad. The major interstate that connects the three areas (I-40) gets congested some during the day, but it's nothing like what you'd see out in the valley. Living anywhere in the Triangle means you're effective 30-40 minutes away from everywhere else, so I know lots of people who live in e.g. Raleigh and work in Durham (or in the Park.)

The weather is pretty good! A bit hot in the summer, but spring and fall are really nice, and the winter isn't too cold. We usually only get 1-2 snows a year.

The best part though: you're 2 hours from the mountains and 2 hours from the beach. When you want to take a vacation, you've got both options to choose from.

Above all else, it's a fast growing area. Our public transit needs a lot of work, and there are plenty of other areas for improvement (bringing more startup talent to the area, rather than older established companies.) It's growing pretty notably though, and I for one am excited to be a part of the process _before_ the area explodes. 10 years from now, the area is going to be a lot more popular.

I've gotten more in depth into this in the path, but I don't recommend people move to "the triangle"

(I honestly don't know why that name has stuck, sure historically they may be linked, but unless you want to deal with ungodly traffic every day, you're probably not going to be going between Raleigh and Durham)

Durham has some serious unresolved problems with crime, Raleigh and Durham both have problems with traffic, the tech scene is not that robust, house prices are on a rocketship shaped trajectory and frankly it feels like a bubble.

I think the core of my complaints has generally been, if you want suburban sprawl, you can go literally anywhere on the eastern seaboard. There are safer cities than Durham, there are cities like Raleigh that don't have the same problems with growth it's facing

If you want a "city feeling", RDU isn't it. Raleigh downtown is how many blocks? Not many. Public transport is terrible so you're going to need a car if you can't contain your life in it.

Maybe if you have a family to settle down and strong earning power and good savings it's a good idea (that is to say, maybe I don't know, I still wouldn't). Or you're on the opposite end of the spectrum and have a lower income and really young with more interest in living in a "happening" place.

But for a new grad in tech or something in demand, your earning power is squandered on suppressed salaries (and no, it's not that mindboggling cheap to live there, especially not with all the money flowing in from all around the country), you're a little bit older than the point where most people are more interested in how many breweries per square mile there are. It just wasn't an appealing proposition to me.

I moved back to NYC and now I make 1.5x what I did there, but my living expenses have not risen nearly 1.5x, and I've probably saved up in 6 months more than I did in 1 year there... at that point you can afford a few nice vacations a year to make up for the weather

I never realized that. As a matter of fact, is there one in CLT?

It's in Southpark

I think one point people are missing:

Apple stores, even if they exist mainly to promote the brand, are MASSIVELY profitable. In fact, they are one of the most profitable store chains in the world. By contract, I believe that Microsoft was always running most of their stores at a loss. Even for a massive company like Microsoft, continuously running an unprofitable division is hard to maintain.

This is purely anecdotal. Take it with a grain of salt.

We have a "high-end" Simon mall, in a town near where I live. It's quite "upscale," with Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, etc.

It has an Apple Store near the South entrance, and a Microsoft Store, near the center.

The Apple Store is always packed. I haven't been there in a few months, so I have no idea what's going on with it at the moment, but it has always been jammed, when I have gone there; even at early or late hours. I have never found a time when it is not crowded.

The Microsoft Store, on the other hand, usually has more staff than customers, with the staff playing XBox in the sitting area outside the store.

The Microsoft stores seemed to be a "ME TOO!" thing. I doubt MS ever opened a store in a mall that didn't have an apple store (or wasn't expected to have one).

Like I'm sure that's what the point was. Someone would go try some Macs out at the Apple store and walk past the Microsoft store on the way to their car. They'd go in, check out the goods (as a matter of comparison shopping), and possibly buy a PC instead.

In my experience though, post-iPhone, very few people go to Apple stores to buy computers. Sure, that's still probably a lot of people, but 99.99% of the people in the store seem to be there about an iPhone (half the time, an iphone that they broke and expect to be fixed under warranty lol).

MS was in the business of selling phones for a while. I wonder if their stores lost traffic because they don't do phones anymore.

Yeah I think it misses the rationale for the Apple stores. Jobs felt that Apple products were different, and weren’t getting a good sales experience by having big box store employees sell them.

This proved a correct thesis for the apple store, and then the stores grew as apple built mass market products.

Microsoft’s product lineup does fairly well. But it is not mass market. And while they are different from PCs, they still run Windows, which is widely familiar among laptop buyers. Further, retail is less important a channel than it used to be. Microsoft can market its products directly online. So even if Microsoft has some of the disAdvantages Apple had, it doesn’t really have the full use case.

I wouldn’t go to an Apple store to buy a computer because you can only buy stock configurations. I would go in to get a feel for them and order online. In the case of Apple Stores. They don’t care if people are “showrooming” and then buy online. Apple gets paid either way.

You can also "ship to store" for Apple. Great if you are a working professional and don't want to leave that stuff on your porch at home.

Great observation on the "mee too!" thing. Microsoft is basically a Me Too company. Look at all their products and history.

Sure, but a large portion of the Apple store crowds has always been people just hanging around and goofing off on the laptops. IIRC it's policy in those places to always let people do that however long they want, even if there's clearly no intent to buy anything. I've always wondered what portion of those crowds are actually customers.

EDIT: Yes, everyone, I understand the marketing and lifetime-value reasons for doing that. I'm just questioning the value of comparing crowd sizes as a direct measure of relative instantaneous revenue/success.

I've always wondered what portion of those crowds are actually customers.

It doesn't really matter, though, because as the OP pointed out, Apple Stores are massively profitable. This is well known in retail circles.

Landlords fall all over themselves to get Apple Stores. Real estate developers will include Apple Stores, or Apple Store lookalikes in their renderings even before the buildings are built, just to get people interested in their projects.

Plus, it gave Apple the perception that there's higher demand for Apple products over Microsoft. Some average Joe thinking about a tablet walks by a packed Apple Store and an empty Microsoft store. It's pretty obvious how that influences their decision.

Microsoft set up a lot of stores in the same malls as Apple Stores. This disparity in numbers has always been the case, no matter how good the MS experience has been as others have pointed out. Seems Apple learned their lessons from the first time the battled Microsoft. Consumers don't do as deep of a research as the tech crowd thinks.

Apple retails stores top every list of revenue per square foot. It's not even close[0].

Crowds may be anecdotal, but the crowds clearly do translate into revenue for Apple.

The link spells out revenue per square foot for Apple as $5546, vs an average of $325. Second and third places bring in $3721 and $2951 per square foot.

[0] https://chainstoreage.com/news/most-profitable-retailers-sal...

"The record for the greatest sales in relation to area of selling space is held by Richer Sounds plc, a British hi-fi retail chain. Sales at its branch in London Bridge Walk reached a peak of £195,426/m² ($27,830/ft²) for the financial year ending 31 January 1994."

That happens in many stores. I call them "store groupies." Around here, vape stores have them in droves. I remember them hanging around Science-Fiction bookstores; often using the back rooms to have D&D games.

I think that every one of them becomes a customer, eventually. Many of them become evangelists, which can sometimes be even more valuable.

There was a "Byte Store" on Queen West in Toronto in the early days of personal computers.

There were--cough--a number of teenagers hanging around like groupies. One of them--cough--may even have installed their heavily customized SuperStarTrek game, and had it become the store's favourite demo.

and store employees call them "loiterers". A herd of human waste, with no money or no intent to purchase anything.

If this is a problem, then don’t pay the employees based on commissions, and train them to make such people feel welcome to ask questions, play with demo machines, etc.

Those people goofing around on the computers are future customers.

I've never seen any customers in the Microsoft Store in Oak Brook. I'm sure they must have some once in a while and it's not like I spend a lot of time in Oak Brook, but it has always been empty of customers every time I've passed it by. I don't think I've seen any other store in the whole mall as empty of customers.

Lemme guess, Roosevelt Field Mall? Sounds like my experiences at that mall.

Walt Whitman, but Roosevelt Field is about the same, from what I hear (I know someone that worked as a "genius" at that store).

I saw Ron Johnson speak around 2012 in San Mateo. He oversaw the initial rise of the Apple Store. I remember him saying Jobs told him there was basically an unlimited budget to make the stores a success. The difference is it only took Apple three years to reach $1B in annual sales.

> The difference is it only took Apple three years to reach $1B in annual sales.

It took far more than that to earn the trust of consumers. Microsoft decided to sit back, collect rent on Windows/Office, and let other business do the hard work of customer service and let their customers deal with malware on their laptops.

Contrast with Apple, who put customer service front and center, opened stores that my parents could go to and talk to someone if they had a problem. They took ownership of the product. And now they are rewarded with the profits.

Microsoft had all the cash in the world to make it happen. But instead, they put Candy Crush in the start menu.

> Microsoft decided to sit back

Weak take. Microsoft was very active with numerous mobile offerings -- Pen Computing, Windows Mobile, Tablet and Embedded Windows. You can debate why they ultimately failed -- too early, insufficient hardware, too Windows-centric -- but @billg was never content just "collecting rent" and not innovating, especially in mobile, internet, and connectivity.

Your bias is obvious when you describe MSFT as "collecting rent" (negative connotation) and AAPL as "rewarded with profits" (positive).

None of these products were for consumers.

Even on the business side, Microsoft never understood or cared about their users (besides maybe Word and Excel users), and marketed towards CEOs and COMPANIES.

see: Sharepoint which is the most financially successful Microsoft product ever, yet every end user despises it.

They never tried or cared to work backwards from a consumer user or what they wanted, they just started from "how do we make billions of dollars from licensing fees".

> Microsoft had all the cash in the world to make it happen. But instead, they put Candy Crush in the start menu.

And got rid of Pinball. :(

that's one of the pathetic excuses I've ever read

they're an OS developer and they can't spend a day figuring out a floating point bug?

maybe redirect some of the time integrating Candy Crush

The follow-up on open sourcing the code was also unhelpful:

> Hey everybody asking that the source code be released: The source code was licensed from another company. If you want the source code, you have to go ask them.

OK, which company?

Well, in 1995 it was developed by Cinematronics and published by Maxis. In 2020, who knows. Probably Disney.

Windows 7 came out in 2009, at least three years before candy crush.

> they're an OS developer and they can't spend a day figuring out a floating point bug?

Maybe it’s bad to argue by appeal to authority, but I take Raymond Chen’s side that it was a hard problem to debug in the time available over some internet sneering that it must have been easy, any day.

> Windows 7 came out in 2009, at least three years before candy crush.

Well they haven't ported it in the decade since.

> in the time available

Same response.

They don't own the code

According to the link: they licensed the code and had access to it. But none of them wrote it and they couldn't justify the days of debugging that would be required when they had millions of other LOC to test and port.

> and let their customers deal with malware on their laptops.

They upped their game with the built in Windows Defender to the point where you don’t need third party AV because it’s rated so highly.

> Contrast with Apple, who put customer service front and center, opened stores that my parents could go to and talk to someone if they had a problem.

Like all the retail stores Microsoft opened, which people in this thread are saying provided a really good experience?

> Microsoft had all the cash in the world to make it happen. But instead, they put Candy Crush in the start menu.

Contrast with Apple who put sponsored results in the App Store and prevent you from deleting default apps in macOS Catalina? https://www.reddit.com/r/osx/comments/dfetr4/comment/f32q81e

Did you read the link? It didn’t say you couldn’t do it. You have to jump through hoops but they are well defined hoops.

> opened stores that my parents could go to and talk to someone if they had a problem

Yes, the Genius Bars are just fantastic! You make an appointment and then you get help from someone knowledgeable, in person, for free. And that person is authorized to accept repairs, etc.

The Big Idea of the Genius Bar is that it's there to help. It's not there to upsell like Geek Squad. It's not hoping you'll go away like typical CS reps. Its mandate really does seem to be "make Apple customers happy."

The apple store crowd is roughly 7% people confused about the error that says backups have stopped working unless you pay $.99. wondering what they can do to make the error go away. Wondering what they can delete and how.

Apple store sales per square foot beat even Tiffany's and it doesn't take much room to display diamonds.


That's interesting to hear. Do you have inside knowledge on that? A former colleague in the HR space worked for Apple retail said that many of them were actually not profitable on the whole. They served lots of purposes but most of the value was intangible and not revenue driven. She/I may be wrong but it's counter to what I was told.

There was a study which was in the news cycle[1] a few years ago that claimed that Apple stores were the most profitable retail space by square foot.

[1] https://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/29/here-are-the-retailers-that-...

Revenue per square foot is high. Profit, not so much.

The “family room” employees now make up most of the Apple Store staff. One can buy an iPhone anywhere, but same-day service to fix that iPhone is more limited. I mean, where would you go?

The cost of payroll for Geniuses, Technical Specialists, Genius Admins, and Trainers, is quite a bit higher than for sales staff - higher pay and the larger headcount of the department. Because of this, any profit from the sales side is absorbed by the tremendous cost of operating their service business.

Also, Apple has continued to pay their retail employees throughout the closures. If the Microsoft stores were already struggling for profitability, closing the stores may have been the better choice rather than to having to layoff and then try to rehire.

The article mentions that there will be no layoffs and the staff have already been redeployed to remote roles.

Except that they are keeping all of them employed.

When I was in a high school busking band, we went to the local mall to make some money playing Christmas songs. We set up in front of the Apple store and within 10 minutes we’re kicked out by security. As we were leaving, someone from the fledgling Microsoft store told us they had a stage we could play on in front of their store the following day (our first “paid” gig, they gave us gift cards). The joke was on us though as it was an outdoor mall, and the temperature didn’t break 20 degrees. The guitarists fingers could barely play, but it was memorable nonetheless and presented a clear contrast in how the Apple store vs Microsoft store treated young buskers!

Most malls don't allow buskers, solicitations or petition signing within their properties.

This is disappointing, although I'm not surprised.

One of the best things about the Microsoft stores is that they provided an obvious way to get individual attention on software issues. My grandfather was a frequent visitor of the Microsoft stores to resolve his software issues with his SurfaceBook and his generic Dell Laptop.

This type of one on one, in person attention was really useful to him and made the Microsoft brand much more approachable. He loved going and he's gotten really great with his computers!

Disappointing news for him and for me, although I can understand the business justification.

> Disappointing news for him and for me, although I can understand the business justification.

Understanding the business justification is why I don’t understand why people think Apple products are overpriced. Not a single other tech organization wants to provide customer service other than Apple, even one with as much cash as Microsoft. Why should I not reward Apple for putting their money where their mouth is?

Obviously, anything less expensive than Apple products makes it unfeasible to offer customer service in person and only merits waiting in a phone queue.

> Not a single other tech organization wants to provide customer service other than Apple

That's a stretch. I'd argue the level of support they're providing is the of the lowest-hanging-fruit level (e.g. how do I transfer my contacts, setup the device). Support forums are full of stories (and from my own experience) where hardware related issues are dismissed and rejected at their stores.

That lowest hanging level fruit is the most valuable for my parents.

That's a great point and an understated value-add to the Microsoft/Windows ecosystem. There is something to be said for not having to call a tech support line, but going to a physical location (where you may have bought your device) to get help and support. Even if the MS stores were run as a loss, MS should have eaten those costs.

I've always had great experiences at the Microsoft store especially with purchases and replacements. Right after the pandemic caused Microsoft to close all their physical locations my Surface Pro 7 started getting green spots on the screen that I've been waiting for the stores to reopen to get replaced.

Hearing the news today that the store wasn't going to be open I decided to try the online support and it is a total mess. I tried to use text chat but after an hour my position in the queue actually went up. So I decided to have them call me which the wait took much longer than quoted. Then I spent over an hour on the phone with a representative for what they even admitted was obviously a manufacturer defect.

They didn't want to send me a new device before I shipped them my RMA unit so they expected me to be without my laptop for a week while they processed the claim. Then when they finally caved they couldn't tell me how large of a hold they would put on my card while before my RMA reached them.

This whole process would have taken 5 minutes at the store, and I would have walked out with a new laptop right then.

All in all I feel like all my Microsoft hardware products just massively depreciated in value.

I had a surface pro 1, and when it decided to randomly completely fail, I called and was met with the same kinda customer service treatment you explained. They offered to replace my week old tablet with a refurb if I shipped mine to them and waited a couple weeks.

I found out there was a MS store right by where my internship was, so I stopped by, explained my problem and showed it to them, and they handed me a new replacement on the spot.

So yeah, same experience here lol. I wasn't going to mention it because I figured they had gotten better by now. I'm sad to hear they haven't! That.. means I probably won't be buying any surface hardware again lol.

> All in all I feel like all my Microsoft hardware products just massively depreciated in value.

Great observation. Top comment in this thread.

Microsoft stores are (were?) magical places full of bizarre and weird devices. I actually had fun going in and seeing all sorts of gadgets and devices and playing with demos. A candy store for futurists. In comparison Apple stores are dystopian places full of rows of identical looking people looking at rows of identical beige phones.

But I think it's pretty telling that I loved hanging out in them, but never spent any money there.

I couldn’t agree more. I absolutely fell in love with the Surface Studio they had on display there. It was really set up to make a great demo too, preloaded with software that takes advantage of the “wheel” device and stylus.

Not only that, it was the only place where I’m sure I’ll ever see the Surface Hub[0]. An incredible “interactive whiteboard” running a special version of Windows 10, the price of which is “please ask for a quote”.

The Microsoft store was really like a mini CES more than a showroom for Microsoft things. I will miss it dearly.

[0] https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/surface/business/surface-hub...

So funny that 10 years ago views about Microsoft and Apple were near the exact opposite of what you described here.

They really weren't. Ten years ago Apple had even more conformity and less choice than now, while Microsoft offering already full of fun stuff that would not exist anymore 3 years later.

Wow went to MS story on 5th avenue NYC in late Feb and was impressed. My son loved the video gaming floor, and the hololens demo. Gave us free t-shirts!

I must say the experience is very impactful to your perception of the brand and a lot of fun

I had a like experience.. but uh..when do they close the sale? To me they seemed so try-hard that you couldn't actually think about 'buying something', you know what I mean? Like an apple store (for a non-owner) is purely a low-pressure sales experience. You walk in, you see products you might buy and you can use and see them in a great environment.. but the MS store? They didn't even have pure confidence in their own products (due to fear of upsetting partners) that they sold 5+ competing brands that you could buy instead of a Surface. from there it devolved into a best-buy-like 'whichever computer you want!' instead of 'this MacBook Air is our right computer for you'. They lacked focus.

I liked that they offered other brands. But what I really wanted was a curated collection of the best Windows laptops, not the rather random assortment they actually had.

With an Apple laptop you know what you're getting. But with a Dell, Sony, HP, Lenovo, etc, the quality is all over the map. I would have loved a single location where I could test out all the best laptops available, and I always wished the MS store had evolved into that.

While I am not surprised, I am disappointed by this.

Only because of the state of tech stores in Boston, if I needed something that wasn't Apple (gaming mostly) they were the only other tech store I could reasonably walk or take the train too. Microcenter isn't super close to a train station.

I always remembered walking along the Charles, really far west of the Mass Ave bridge and asking myself "why is there a Microcenter here?"

It is right next to Harvard and pretty close to MIT. There's a bunch of other larger stores in the area.

Beats the one closest to Philly, which was a decent drive out of town.

I guess I should be happy that there was a microcenter within walking distance of those schools, but if you live on the other side of the Charles like me and the other commenter, you will experience many a frosty 20 minute walk across that cursed bridge to get from the Green line to the Red line :)

Sigh. With this news, I wish (the other) Bay Area had a Micro Center. The closest one is in SoCal .

Fry’s is either always going out of business (Palo Alto) or always out of stock of whatever I need.

Now with Microsoft gone, that leaves us Best Buy, Central Computer, Fry’s, the internet, and Apple.

It's also reasonably accessible to suburbanites and has parking.

Same, it's a huge hike from the center of Boston

Congregating near Apple stores helped too. If the Apple stores were too busy I’d swing by the MS store. They actually had good product and presented them well.

I also liked that their staff seemed more like regular kids rather than “cool” kids, but maybe it’s a misreading.

I think your right, the Microsoft stores... they always just kinda felt like they had to try harder. Where the Apple stores they kinda took being Apple for granted. I can't exactly blame them.

The Microsoft Store in Boston would regularly hold Halo tournaments and similar events later in the day.

However I am torn on being so near Apple Stores. I feel like it caused them to choose worse locations. In Boston, Apple has their 3 story street level location, while Microsoft was across the street but hidden in a mall.

I can't think of an event where I needed to go to the Apple store and would have been able to go to Microsoft Store instead.

The microcenter in Cambridge is borderline distance from the T -- take the T to central, and then blue bike for 10 minutes -- there's a bluebike dock right in front of the place.

I mean yeah its possible, I also live in Back Bay (and in reality I would walk in a nice day to Microcenter anyways) so its hard to argue with a 10 minute walk to Apple or Microsoft if I need a last minute keyboard, controller, or something else.

More, I am just sad to be loosing one of the already very few tech stores we have in Boston.

I always hated the trek to Microcenter in Boston. Made that walk countless times.

Though, I guess now I look back on it fondly.

How much is this MS deciding they’re really not a consumer brand - but rather one focused on cloud and enterprises?

Huh. I was going to say that it was absurd to suggest they were giving up on consumers, given just how heavy they've been investing in gaming for the last year. But writing that out made me realize they unceremoniously killed Mixer just three days ago.

It’s better to dump dead weight early than have it eat into your profits long term.

Not just profits, but opportunity cost as well.

Unfortunately a string of failed attempts to find the correct evolutionary gradient will leave customers with a sour taste. There's a lot to balance.

Running a company is hard.

Looks more to me like they are giving up on their Surface line-up specifically, rather than all their consumer focused products. The Microsoft stores & Surface line was Microsoft's attempt at copying Apple with expensive devices with solid build quality and good support. It saw some success but apparently not enough.

> expensive devices with solid build quality and good support.

The part in the middle was definitely missing

Are you saying the build quality wasn't solid on the Surface lineup? That doesn't match my experience at all.

I don't think the announcement has anything to do with the Surface lineup. I expect that to be around for awhile.

I think it's definitely related. At least it is my impression the Microsoft stores exist primarily for the Surface lineup. I also don't expect them to end the Surface lineup immediately, but it signals that they are at the very least slowing investment in that area.

My impression was that the Microsoft Stores existed primarily for Windows Phone, and this is just lag/momentum catching up to them.

You mean *this year? Because MS has been unfocused in whether they are a consumer brand or not for many years.

I guess I can say this now.

I worked for 5 years at the most revenue-generating microsoft store in the world. We were near the official Microsoft campus. The short answer is that things started to change internally around 2017, where stores changed their hiring requirements and excised a lot of their top talent in favor of lower-paid, less enthusiastic management and employees. This has been a steady downhill process since - It is a shame that the stores will no longer be. I loved my time working there, and loved the people and connections I made there both personally and professionally. We genuinely went out of our way to make customers happy, no matter the cost. It was inevitable that kind of goodwill would be snuffed out by profit motive eventually.

It is disappointed. I love Microsoft and their services. I do expect Microsoft will take their real effort and focus to customer, the end user, but looks like it will never happen.

A lot of people mention that the MS stores were a 'brand image' or 'marketing' front, but if that's the case, I can see why they closed. The three or four I visited were very near an Apple Store, and while the Apple Store across the way was always bustling and had people standing around with their Apple devices even outside the store front (I guess waiting for Genius appointments)... the Microsoft stores were always sparsely populated with maybe 5-10 brightly colored shirt employees and one or two customers.

> I guess waiting for Genius appointments

I'm convinced this is deliberate - the apple store is full of blue shirts and people waiting for their appointments / devices to be fixed. It makes the shops look like they're busy, most shops would not make people wait around like that for things to be fixed, but apple gets away with it somehow. It's all very clever - I call it apple theatre, and yes I participate myself. I'd never wait that long to get my PC fixed, I'd drop it off and come back to pick it up - total time 5 minutes, but somehow apple make it so people happily sit round while the genii investigate things and engage in the mystical business of fixing the phone/Mac, challenging the apple hierarchy to get that special repair price for you, and I don't think I've paid full price for a repair for a long time (ever?), so I indulge them.

> people waiting for their appointments

Most Apple stores are located in malls and adjacent to other retail outlets. If you have to wait for an appointment, they take your number and give you a five minute notification when your Genius is going to be ready. Every time I've done it, they've encouraged me to go shop the rest of the mall (not linger).

> It makes the shops look like they're busy, most shops would not make people wait around like that for things to be fixed, but apple gets away with it somehow.

Apple used to get a lot bit of flack for struggling to keep up with Genius appointment loads. I'm not sure if their service has improved or people just accept that wait times are a thing. The few times I've dealt with them it's been reasonable considering the store was basically packed and all 4 Geniuses at the desk working with someone constantly.

Yes, I'm not complaining, I find it interesting and educational seeing the issues raised and how they handle customers (they're my customers to). I'm sure if I raised it they would have me out quicker.

Though I would say I haven't experienced the five minute notification, every time was longer than that, again though, not complaining, I find the whole experience entertaining - the lights, the choreography, the cast of characters - best mall experience.

Last time I went in to get my PC laptop repaired at Best Buy it was about a 45 minute wait just to drop it off. Then three days before the repair was made.

I have also dropped off Macs at a local non-Apple-Store authorized repair shop and it was 20-30 minutes before I was helped. I think it's just how things are with support/repairs.

Oh ok, that hasn't been my experience, we don't have Best Buy here (Australia), so maybe the difference. I had to drop off my Mac to a non apple place when they were all closed, due to corona. It was 5-10 minutes tops for drop off and pick up - but an unusual situation.

Apple stores do more than sell hardware and handle repairs. They offer numerous classes for users on how to use different apps on your phone, how to create music and movies with GarageBand/iMovie, how to take pictures and edit them, among other things. So people standing around waiting could be waiting for a scheduled talk as well.

Is a busy store a positive thing for most potential customers? Even before social distancing if I would see a crowded store I would not want to go in.

Perhaps, I've always noticed other shops empty but the apple shop is always bustling, but not overly crowded (most of the time), just the impression of things happening. I often compared it to the poor Bose shop (now defunct) that was nearby, no one went in there because the salesman leapt upon you as soon as you entered, and you couldn't just fiddle with things without being bothered. Bose have great products but people don't linger there, and the same for the Microsoft shops in the article, but people linger in apple stores - it's by design. (I'm talking pre social distancing of course, but then, even now, people are lining up outside apple stores like no other, and the blue shirts are looking after every one, all with masks and sanitisers and checking your temperature, all theatre - its a safe space, everything's OK in an apple store!)

It’s a positive thing for the very reason this thread exists. Microsoft stores are now shutting down. If I’m investing time into a product line, I am interested its continuance.

Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded

Possibly because Apple sells ~250 iPhones and three iPads for each Surface sold.

To be fair, the Verizon store near me is ALWAYS packed because it has people waiting in line to have something fixed. Microsoft generally relies on OEMs to do repairs (for non-Microsoft devices.) I think that is a key difference. While Apple makes you wait 45 minutes for a repair, you are looking at something new and potentially buying it.

Apple stores had specific function and well-defined goals. Brand, hands on, direct sale, all spring to mind. Microsoft stores seemed to have a motto of "Copy Apple stores". I didn't get their reason for existing.

Their reasons for existing were the same as the ones you listed for Apple stores: Brand, hands on, direct sale. I'd also add that they serve as a place where buyers believe that they can get support on product, thus increasing their trust in the product. That's an incredibly valuable thing IMO.

Totally agree for Microsoft product owners.

One of the hard things for MS I think is that the Apple store was successful because you couldn't get a Mac in the past anywhere else and it was a good experience that really set the tone of the Mac.

Then the iPhone and iPod happened, that blew up the Store market for Apple. Microsoft doesn't have an iPhone, didn't have a successful consumer market beyond the Xbox and most can and will get a Microsoft product somewhere else. Worse even, it is a hard place to read for the customer. What do they sell? Obviously products running windows, but I don't think that really tied back to Microsoft's own products, surface, Xbox, etc. When the stores first were created the notable thing I realized about them was this: People, normal people, don't actually care about Microsoft. They use their massive body of work, they live the Microsoft life, but they don't actually see it as cool or interesting. Few normal people are like 'Woah, look at the Surface Neo!'. They have a major uptight brand problem, maybe the Mac v PC ads helped cause that, perhaps an engineering-led culture rather than a product or human-focused culture?

I think the lesson MS learned here is that you can and could copy everything about an Apple store but that doesn't make you Apple and doesn't bring their unique context in which the stores work extremely well.

> They have a major uptight brand problem, maybe the Mac v PC ads helped cause that, perhaps

Maybe because the standard advice given when purchasing a Microsoft device was to spend hours reinstalling Windows to remove malware. I know technically it was HP or Dell or Sony’s device, but since there was no non malware option, obviously Microsoft chose to let those brands sully Microsoft’s brand for a few dollars in short term profit.

Ironically that got so bad that they sold 'Microsoft signature editions' without junk at the store.

"One of the hard things for MS I think is that the Apple store was successful because you couldn't get a Mac in the past anywhere else and it was a good experience that really set the tone of the Mac."

CompUSA and Best Buy sold them, so did a lot of independent resellers. I guess it was kinda like buying a thinkpad back then.

Indie computer shops used to really be a thing in large cities.

What products did Microsoft support there? I only have Microsoft OS and none of their devices so maybe I'm missing their value. FWIW, if I have Windows issues on a Dell laptop then I call Dell for vendor support.

I had a surface book2. I bought the accidental damage protection. A year after I bought it, I cracked the screen. Took me all of 60 min to get the problem fixed: 20 min to drive to the store. 20 min to get a replacement. 20 min to drive home. The store was remarkably convenient for me (for this and just for seeing the sb2 in action). Not sure if I would have purchased it without the store.

Mainly Surface and Xbox. Remember that Microsoft launched the Microsoft Store model under Ballmer when they were trying to go head on with Apple in the consumer space.

Don’t forget LinkedIn profile photo booths! (not kidding, I saw one when I walked past my local MS store)

This seems like the kind of corporate nightmarish product that could only arise from those two.

Even if the "value add" was a pro-level photo to boost job offers, why are we using photos for job offers in the first place?

Good looking people cause enjoyable chemical reactions to occur in people’s brains. If you take two identically qualified people, the person who appears/sounds more pleasing to the buyer will win the business. It’s part of nature, for better or for worse.

Orchestras introduced blind auditions to address this bias. Why don't we do that for other jobs? I say this as someone who would probably fall in one of the categories of people who would supposedly benefit from this bias.

This is the intended effect of the tech interviews that HN hates so much. Interviewers talk to the candidate and write down feedback about how the interview went. Then a hiring committee reads the notes and makes a decision. The hiring committee never sees the candidate, so can't judge their appearance. When I was doing interviews at Google, we were also trying very hard to write feedback like "the candidate said XXX" instead of "she said XXX", so that that source of bias was not available to the hiring committee. (It's not perfect, of course, because the person writing the feedback can be biased by those things. But it's better than looking at resumes with photos attached.)

I don't agree with this.

The Microsoft Store was basically a bad version of Best Buy that happened to sell Microsoft's hardware products front and center.

Why would a customer go to a Microsoft Store instead of a Best Buy? It has less selection, fewer locations, and likely worse prices, while selling essentially the same product categories.

The Apple Store, in contrast, is arguably mostly possible because it's a massive cell phone store, and before that an iPod store. They didn't exist before the iPod era. By now, Macs probably only account for 5% of the economic activity that takes place in Apple Stores.

Because you could buy a Windows PC at the Microsoft store and not have to spend hours removing all of the third party crapware from the OEM and even more crapware from Best Buy.

Either that, or you have to go directly to the vendors website and buy one of the business laptops.

Have to agree as much as I don't like some of their products. They really polished the experience and executed on their visions with great aplomb.

At one of the biggest malls in San Jose, there is a Microsoft Store and an Apple Store right across the hallway from each other. On a normal day, anyone walking by could see that the Apple Store was packed with people, and the bored employees at the Microsoft store were standing around with nothing to do. It was kind of sad.

It's not like Microsoft didn't have popular stuff to sell, especially the Xbox.

The London store is on Oxford Street and a lot of stores in that area are flagships that don't have to make money directly. Not having to have stock or cash registers just saves money, the main mission of having an impressive presence need not be burdened with actual retail sales.

Some Oxford Street stores do make lots of money but there are many others where ten minutes in the store is enough for you to see what is going on. The whole range can be on show whereas in your regional town there is a fraction of the range. But you can experience the brand.

Adjacent to Oxford Street is Tottenham Court Road. This was legendary in the 1990s for computer shops with fairs in nearby halls where you could buy components for competitive prices, as if nobody was paying VAT. That scene went a long time ago for more flagship stores to come along. These flagship stores don't have to make sales to cover the rent. Microsoft are part of the theme park.

I'm bummed about that. The store was nice but no where near as full as Apple's. They did a number of things for the community there. They held training classes for kids etc. I'm sad to hear them leave.

I've been to MS store only once last year to buy a laptop that was on sale. It was a good and pleasant buying experience and the staff was very friendly. However, I noticed that there weren't a lot of variety of hardware on sale. I wish they had more computer stuff, like GPU, mechanical keyboards, motherboards, etc.... Imagine if they were like mini Micro-center, I'd bet they would've been a lot more popular than Apple store. The foot traffic alone would've given them some good will for MS, if that was their intent.

> Imagine if they were like mini Micro-center,

Not to be rude, but this idea is out of touch. Basically no one would want this and the PC building market is impossibly tiny today. You'd get zero foot traffic.

No one is building their own computers anymore and those that are, are serviced incredibly well by Amazon/Newegg/etc.

Interestingly here in Canada, we have a smallish, but still growing retail chain catering to the DIY pc builder market, called Memory Express.

They aren’t big box by any means, but I’ve been very happy to shop there. Better selection than Best Buy, better curation than Amazon.

I think you're underestimating the size of the PC gaming market. And most PC gamers are building their own computers. I think what has really helped PC gaming in recent years is Twitch streamers who are predominantly playing on PC. The kids see this and eventually make the switch to PC.

The PC building section at micro center is always packed with all sorts of people buying full parts for a gaming PC.

> mini Micro-center

There used to be variations of a lot of these all over the place. Some were exclusively software (Babbages), some had a mix (we had a local franchise called Computer Warehouse, often located in small strip-mall locations). I loved working at CompUSA (more like Microcenter; a little smaller than the Microcenter that is a half-mile from where I worked, also formerly two miles away from a Computer City).

Retail computer hardware is basically gone these days except for small, independent, shops. I'm so glad I live 20 minutes from a Micro Center. I used to live about as far from a Microsoft store, too. :)

This would have been a great direction for them to go in - but the desktop building market is pretty niche these days compared to the people in the market for a MacBook Air or similar alternative.

I feel like they can't really be sure that they can push that kind of 'partsy' inventory. USB stuff sure, but GPUs, MBs, ram etc... bitsy and complicated.

I think the stores were always about building the Surface brand and relaunching the Windows & Office brand.

Demonstrating touch interfaces in the COVID world simply isn't going to work anymore. The cloud has won, COVID killed prem.

Mission Accomplished! Was it profitable? Doesn't matter.

it might be related to covid, but I fail to see how touch interfaces are problematic for the store, people (and regulations) don't care anymore.

I don't know where you are that people and regulations don't care, but I am still going to stores that wipe payment touchscreens with sanitizer between individual uses.

For now. Given the sharp rise in US cases, they will care soon.

This is disappointing because the Microsoft stores seemed to be the only retail B&Ms that carried premium Windows hardware. Aside from a few outliers, stores like Best Buy tend to focus on volume Windows machines (Inspiron, IdealPad, Pavillion). What's the alternative, buying three computers online and returning the two you don't like?

In my opinion this is linked to the shutdown of windows phone. If you haven’t been following it it went from Windows Phone is dead[1]. To Bill Gates use Android[2]. Subsequently Windows Phone was removed from the Microsoft Store.

[1]: https://windowsphone.stackexchange.com/questions/16686/as-20... [2]: https://www.theverge.com/2017/9/26/16365424/bill-gates-andro...

I'm going to miss this. I was at a conference in San Francisco, dropped my Surface. Shattering the screen. Luckily I could just walk to thew Microsoft Store and they replaced it. I would have been so screwed if that store wasn't there. I liked being able to go in and see the new Surface hardware before launches. Best Buy would usually not get display units until after launch. I've replaced an Xbox that had a bad HDMI unit...I'd had have to have waited a week to get a new unit, but instead I just went to the Microsoft Store and got it done immediately. I wish they would just scale them down instead of shutting it all down.

Bought this computer I'm using right now from a Microsoft retail store. Great place to try out new computers. Disappointed.

> Great place to try out new computers.

Maybe that was the issue. At an Apple store if you said 'my kid needs a laptop for college' they will walk you to ONE computer (MBA) and say 'it's the best one' it's painless whereas MS was tied down by their partners to being non-confident in their own line and basically being a Best Buy.

The service I've received in Microsoft stores when I've needed tech support has been nothing short of phenomenal. Their "genius bar" equivalent is simply the best I've ever used.

I'm not a huge fan of microsoft, but I think this is a huge mistake. I've been into the local MS store here in seattle (uvillage) on occasion to quickly grab hardware or software from time to time. While it is clearly a sad apple follow it always makes me feel a little better about MS as a company. It does something to humanize them. So yeah, do they make a ton of money for them? Of course not. Are they great for the brand, I'd argue yes.

This is disappointing. The pandemic is certainly a change in my own behavior, but I regularly visited two Microsoft stores in the Chicago area and have made large purchases in each. Especially when new hardware is released, it’s great to see it within the construct of a corporate setting.

Of course the Best Buy model of having manufacturer space like a mini mall helps balance this loss, it’s not the same level of interaction.

Very disappointing.

Microsoft’s stores were very nice except that they had double the staff they needed and were using headsets to coordinate their sales efforts and pressure me into buying things... several of their main brands also had histories of installing spyware on their consumer devices which made me really uncomfortable and kept me from buying a couple of times (Lenovo, Dell, razer, another I forget)

Microsoft Stores actually had a policy that the PCs they sold were only allowed to have clean OS images ("Signature Edition" was the branding term), which means that it was the safest place to buy Lenovo/Dell/etc. You'd pay on average about $50 more than if you bought directly from Lenovo or Dell, but you'd have peace of mind that you wouldn't need to reinstall Windows to make sure that you had removed all the spyware/adware.

ETA: Which is maybe the biggest loss with the Microsoft Stores going away. You could point a relative at a Microsoft Store and not worry about any PC they picked, but any other store you'd need to expect to do a reinstall for them or worry about which specific brand name they picked.

very interesting on the verge of their new console hardware launch.

the stores had a such a strong "games" presence that I assumed it would be critical showpiece of them-- especially if they have an All Digital hardware edition which meant (albeit dying) retailers like Gamestop would probably not carry the console.

it's a shame, regardless. i always had such a good customer experience there.

I scoured through two financial annual reports of MS for 2018 and 2019 but found no emphasis on the growth/profit or loss margins of their retail outlets. Though, I've heard a great deal about them and it seems like they were useful.

Fun fact: MS always aimed to open their outlets in serious close proximity to Apple stores.

Of course the other question is: will there be any malls left open for stores like these? I suspect this a calculation many retail stores are toying with at the moment; we're in the middle of a fundamental shift in retail to online and local stores.

We've already seen one mall owner in the UK go into administration.

This makes me sad. I thought the Microsoft Store at the Domain in Austin was very cool and I visited from time to time. There was also an Apple store in the same location so I could visit both! And there was a Borders Bookstore, which I loved browsing in, and is also closed now :-(

They should put BSOD in the windows when they close.

Sad to hear, but unsurprising. The MS store near us looked nice yet was always a ghost town. They're just not as sexy as an Apple store, though they've done a great job with the latest versions of Windows and the XBox is fairly popular.

So you mean Steve Jobs was right when he said: "They just have no taste."


If past is prelude, they'll try again, within about a decade.

They first tried a retail store ~1999-2001, before even Apple, with at least one outlet being in San Francisco's downtown 'Metreon':


(By my recollection, it was somewhere within the 2nd-floor footprint of the Target that's there now... not far from the bowling alley/arcade.)

Wonder what will happen to the products at these locations. As someone who lives very close to one (King of Prussia), I'd love to see a chance to pick up some display models on the cheap.

Wow...TIL Microsoft had retail stores.

Same. Wondering if it is a regional thing? Never in my life have I heard of or seen a Microsoft store.

They were almost in every major US city or their suburbs I think. In suburbs, they were predominantly in malls.

Pretty much every US city with an Apple Store had at least the mall kiosk version of the Microsoft Store, almost always within earshot or horizon distance from the Apple Store "coincidentally".

Why “coincidentally” in scare quotes?

If one company is going to open an electronics store, they will put it where it is accessible to the most possible customers. If another company wants to open one they can either put it in the same place for the same reason - and now there are customers who go to that region to buy that kind of goods making it more desirable - or they can put it somewhere else where it is accessible to fewer customers, and that’s a silly decision.

Not so much "scare quotes" as "wink, wink" quotes, somewhere between a joke and reality.

Some of it was documented as intentional. The one specific one I know was that Microsoft was said very explicitly in location scouting in New York that their NYC store needed to be close the Apple Store.

Anecdotally, my city has two malls on the same side of the same street with an interstate in between them (and today owned by the same management company even). Apple for various reasons chose the smaller of the two with less overall foot traffic. Microsoft could have gone to the mall with more foot traffic, but didn't. While anecdotes are not proof, it is amusing sign.

It'll be interesting to see what happens when most Best Buys follow suit and we have no stores left to come in and try non-Apple products.

In some sense, this is a big window of opportunity for Dell to get smart and fix their website from looking like a warehouse dump for nerds who want the best deal and give a shit about specs, to actual customers who just to see an intuitive product line-up and extra details if and when they want that.

Turns out that building radio sets out of coconut shells won’t actually make the planes come back.

Were these ever super profitable, or did they just count under brand marketing?

Those kind of stores are mostly a marketing tool. That works quite well if done correctly.

Went in to a MS store just once ever. Before I go in, I always ask myself what have I not seen in windows already? Touch screen with a windows, not very hard to predict how it is same as using a pointer. That VR demo? I’m not gonna wait and look stupid. Maybe they failed to sell intrigue compared to Apple stores. Their products has mystique to it when they first come out and you always want to try it.

Apple hasn't really released anything new in quite some time. Pretty much just iterative releases and upgrades. yet Apple stores are often so crowded you can't even walk in them. I think it's more than just new product launches.

Not surprising to me, but its really too bad. The consumer side was always hopeless, but I thought the stores provided a great hook into the small business, education, and non-profit sectors- orgs too small to have anything resembling a decent IT department who needed help. I wonder what the effort would look like if those customers had been the focus instead of individual consumers.

MS stores were created trying to emulate the success of Apple stores. However, from the get go this was a strange decision, since MS has no exclusivity on HW. Even Xbox can be purchased on other physical and online stores, sometimes at a cheaper price. They also don't provide support to a lot of this hardware, opposed to Apple that also uses stores as as service centers.

You can buy Apple products from other places too, though.

This makes sense. Microsoft are not a retail company. Copying Apple's stores made no sense either economically or aesthetically.

Apparently if you're not dramatically over-charging for your consumer technology products, you can't afford brick-and-mortar locations. Those who do pay for the premium platform should realize that not (nearly) all of the additional cost goes into product quality.

Note that this discounts design superiority/inferiority.

By definition, if people are buying at the price that Apple sets at the margins Apple wants and there are alternatives, the product is not “overpriced”. That’s kind of Economics 101

True ... I should have used the word "premium" instead to represent the economic difference in the unit price and associated margins.

Apple stores, on the other hands, are like popular night clubs these days.

I was at the mall the other day and saw a long line up of people looking to get in and a girl with an iPad looking through her list to see if she could admit people immediately (the people who made appointments), or make them wait (those who didn't).

Sad - their service was exceptional. Once had a problem with my Surface Book and they replaced it right there.

Whenever I go past the Oxford Circus store I think to myself, if only we had stores like this for Linux.

There are, at least here in Portland, Or (US). FreeGeek is a recycler and resells used equipment, usually with Ubuntu. They have made their store more like the Apple store over the years and reduced the number of random parts they sell (although they still have quite a few things). For Linux, any computer made in the past seven years or so that is well supported works great for a lot of people. They have a tech support window that will spend hours with people having trouble and classes in a different part of the building. The hardware itself is fairly expensive considering its age but for anyone who is likely to use the tech support it is likely one of the best deals available.


These stores always seemed like a desperate attempt to copy apple. Which would be fine if they had product lines that were interesting. But they don't.

I think in the case its more that Apple has discovered what retail really is in a digital-first world. It's a way to build brand relationship, not a retail storefront. I suspect this will be the paradigm for brick & mortar for decades, and I don't think MS is wrong to copy this pattern (many others are!)

The copying was so weirdly precise, too; like down to the table layouts, T-shirts and lanyards. It’s as if they couldn’t pinpoint what made Apple stores successful and were afraid to change any detail in their copies.

The surface product lines generates a lot of interest.

Apparently not enough to offset the costs of dealing with retail problems and customer service. Much easier to sit back and collect rent on software.

Outside of HN, I don't know of anyone who cares about the next surface release. Anecdotally, of course.

Apple sells 100s of phones and iPads for each surface sold. One can't just take their store model without their context and think it will be as successful. Plus you can get a surface at any store, no need to go to a Microsoft store that sells a random assortment of a computers (not just their own) where a new user might not realize a Surface is a Microsoft product.

Sure but you don't have to be Apple successful for the physical store project to be considered successful.

The Surface, Hololens, and XBox aren't "interesting"? Stop it.

Xbox totally is...But I honestly don't think many (normal, not HN or tech) people associate the Xbox brand with Microsoft so strongly. Maybe somewhere down the stack of other things but many likely associate 'Windows' or 'Office'.. which of course is not interesting at all to the normal person.

Plus the average person has no idea what Hololens is and the Surface brand is not actually strongly associated as well (at least it's not the first three things a customer thinks).

Basically to the average person it seems like a `Best Buy that sells less cool stuff`.

In comparison, the first things when people think of Apple is 'iPhone' followed by 'iPad', and 'Mac'; all of which outsell the Surface Brand multiple (or in the case of the iPhone, hundreds of) times to 1.

If Microsoft opened Xbox stores.. I actually would expect success.

The XBox might be “interesting” but it isn’t a high volume, high margin item. It’s sold at a lost and has sold less than 50 million in its entire lifetime. Apple sells that many iPhones in a bad quarter, it sells about that many iPads in a year.


Apple has like 5 producs.That's it. Microsoft probably has more. However,for MS user it's a console, a PC,or laptop,while for Apple fans it's The Apple. Hence the difference in brick and mortar stores.

I know there is no point responding to such comments, but I was curious myself: iPhone, iPad, iPod, Apple Watch, AirPods, MacBook, iMac, Pencil, AppleTV, HomePod, the monitor, software products, cloud services, plus accessories to support the ecosystem. plus selling high margin extended warranties and financing. Most of those items are categories of products, not specific products themselves. Many of those products are industry leaders in their respective segments. Thats a lot of products, and a lot of good reasons to maintain a fleet of retail outlets.

You took one piece from my comment and ran with it.Yes, apple has more than 5 products but my point is that the core products are: iphone,mcbook, watch,and airpods. All of them, including those you mentioned form a rich ecosystem. What I meant is that Apple users are huge fans of the whole thing: they are more likely to have multiple products and are very passionate about it. They go to the stores, including hordes of others,who are yet to buy it, because it's the thing they love and really want. Now look across the entire MS product range,and excluding probably X-box, which product would make people go crazy.The surface, a new windows version? MS is the work car most of us have to use,while Apple is that shiny sports car your neighbour bought and you really want it.

They're not the #1 phone, they're not the #1 computer platform, they're not the #1 smart speaker, they're not the #1 monitor vendor, they're not the #1 streaming television dongle.

I don't know how you can say "most are industry leaders in their respective segments."

Do you consider Old Navy to be an industry leader for apparel just because they pump out huge volumes of crappy clothes?

The fact of the matter is that Apple is the biggest manufacturer of smartphones in terms of net profit, by far. It’s not even remotely close. That sounds like an industry leader to me.

To put a number on it, Apple books between 65-80% of ALL profits generated in the smartphone industry by selling phones.

Like you said....others are not even on the same planet. I think people really fail to understand the scale of Apple's success.

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