Microsoft Releases Windows 7, Opens First Retail Store

As Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) released its much-talked about Windows 7 operating system, the software giant quietly opened its first retail store in Scottsdale, Arizona.

It's no coincidence that the store's opening coincided with the launch of Windows 7, but the true goal of the Microsoft Store is to put the Microsoft brand back into the minds of consumers, as many have become enamored with rival Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL).

At a company conference in New Orleans last summer, Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner boasted, "And stay tuned, because we're going to have some retail stores opened up that are opened up right next door to Apple stores this fall."

Microsoft's second store in Mission Viejo, Calif. will open on Oct. 29 in the same mall as Apple's retail location there.

Still, Microsoft has a long way to go to catch up to Apple's more than 200 retail locations worldwide, but it could be an important revenue stream for the company going forward. Apple generated $1.8 billion in sales in its stores in the quarter ended Sept. 26, roughly 18% of its total revenue. The company's retail sales gained 6% year-over-year in the quarter.

Microsoft is looking for that kind of success as it reinvents itself into a more versatile company focused on innovation. Wall Street expects Microsoft's revenue to have slipped almost 18% in the third quarter, which will be reported today (Friday).

As Microsoft has done several times in its history, it's taking a few cues from Apple – including laptops on cedar tables, personal shoppers as well as product training.

In both the brick-and-mortar and online stores, Microsoft is selling PCs for the first time in its history. The stores will also sell what you'd expect from Microsoft: Xbox 360, Zune, Windows Mobile phones and of course, software such as Windows 7.

"Our customers have told us they want choice, better value and great service when shopping for technology, and that is what we will deliver through our Microsoft stores," said Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Retail David Porter, a former Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) executive with 27 years experience in the industry.

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