After covering the grand opening of Microsoft’s first Seattle store last week, I got a chance to stop by the University Village location on Sunday afternoon to see what the scene was like post-hoopla.
In short, it was impressive. With its bright colors and wraparound video screens, the Microsoft Store felt vibrant and alive. Granted, it was the opening weekend, but people were packed into the store so tightly that it was hard to maneuver at times. That’s the kind of problem that every retailer wants.
Actually, what every retailer really wants is crowds of people buying its products.
Across the parking lot at University Village, the newly remodeled Apple Store was just as full as the Microsoft Store yesterday afternoon. The lighting at the Apple Store was more subdued, but as I walked through, I realized that I was able to better focus on the iPads and Macs on the tables, without being distracted by the store itself.
In contrast, the Microsoft Store had more of a carnival atmosphere. It wasn’t just the bright colors and enthusiastic employees, but also the wider array of products. You pretty much know what you’re going to see at an Apple Store — iPad, iPhone, Mac, etc. — but there’s an element of surprise as you walk through a Microsoft store, seeing which PCs and devices the company has decided to spotlight.
Walking through the Microsoft store also underscored how important the Xbox 360 has become in Microsoft’s quest to connect with consumers. Kinect games were clearly a huge draw, and there was a line to play Fruit Ninja on the big screen in the back of the store.
Of course, the Apple Store also had a line — about a dozen people lined up near the entrance, hoping that the iPhone 4S supplies would hold out long enough for them to get one.
For all the interest in Kinect, the Microsoft store was missing that sense of raw desire for a product so central to our lives. That’s where Apple still seems to have the upper hand, at least for now.
But in the meantime, let’s give Microsoft credit, at least, for creating a fun and engaging store.