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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer opens the company's Bellevue Square store in November. (Microsoft Photo)

Microsoft today confirmed plans for a new retail store in Century City, Calif. It will be the company’s fourth storefront in California, and its 11th location nationwide. (Eight are currently open, and two others have previously been confirmed by the company as planned, in Houston and Atlanta.) Other rumored (but unconfirmed) locations include Orlando, Fla., and New York City. And while the company has been keeping mum, city permits have revealed its plans for a store at Seattle’s University Village, across a courtyard from the Apple Store there.

In other words, on the surface, Microsoft’s national expansion of its fledgling retail operation seems to be going strong.

However, at this pace, it would take years for the Redmond company to match Apple’s chain of more than 300 stores worldwide. One of the reasons each Microsoft Store confirmation gets attention is that there still aren’t that many of them.

Business Insider reported recently that the company’s executives are divided over the merits of ramping up the company’s retail presence — debating whether the investment is worth the marketing and exposure that the stores create. The site’s Matt Rosoff reported that CEO Steve Ballmer COO Kevin Turner would like to match or exceed Apple’s worldwide retail footprint, but others inside the company aren’t convinced.

For those of you keeping score at home, here’s the official list of open and planned stores …

  • Scottsdale Fashion Square (Scottsdale, AZ)
  • The Shops at Mission Viejo (Mission Viejo, CA)
  • Park Meadows Retail Resort (Lone Tree, CO)
  • Fashion Valley (San Diego, CA)
  • Oakbrook Center (Oak Brook, IL)
  • Mall of America (Minneapolis, MN)
  • Bellevue Square (Bellevue, WA)
  • South Coast Plaza (Costa Mesa, CA)

Confirmed by the company as planned

  • Lenox Square (Atlanta, GA) – May 23
  • Houston Galleria (Houston, TX) – Date to be announced
  • Century City (Los Angeles, CA)- Date to be announced

Microsoft Stores have gotten a bum rap for being mere knock-offs of Apple Stores. Sure, there are similarities, and clearly Microsoft took cues from retail strategies implemented and even pioneered by Apple. But based on my own visits to the Microsoft Store at Bellevue Square, the Redmond company also brings a distinctive personality to its locations.

Does that mean the company should open hundreds of them? That’s a different question entirely, and I’m not sure of the answer. Feel free to weigh in with your own opinion below.

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