Microsoft to Open 'Pop-up' Stores to Boost Surface Retail Sales

Microsoft is posting job openings to staff a dozen temporary retail stores during the holiday season, primarily to sell its Microsoft-made Surface tablet and Windows 8 operating system.

Microsoft is stepping up its retail strategy to sell the Surface tablet and other Microsoft products this holiday season by posting job openings for a dozen "pop-up" stores around the United States. The company is seeking to staff temporary stores on top of the 31 Microsoft Stores already open or about to open.

In retail parlance, pop-up stores are store locations using short-term leases to occupy vacant space in shopping malls. They are usually set up for the holiday shopping season, opening sometime in October and operating into early January.

The Microsoft ads seek to fill temporary positions for stores in Chicago, Cleveland, New York City, San Antonio, San Francisco, St. Louis, two locations in Miami as well as locations in Natick and Braintree, Mass., Portland, Ore. and Vancouver, British Columbia.

The pop-up store strategy demonstrates Microsoft's determination to make a big push with Surface, the company's first personal computer in which the software and hardware are both made by Microsoft. Before the advent of the Surface, Microsoft left hardware manufacturing to the PC OEMs.

But its plans to produce and market the Surface are Redmond's way of emulating the Apple model of integrating hardware and software together rather than licensing its Windows operating system (OS) to hardware manufacturers. It will still do that with its pending Windows 8 OS, due to be released the same day as the Surface, Oct. 26.

By design, some Microsoft Stores are located close to Apple retail stores in the same malls. At the Westfield Valley Fair mall in Santa Clara, Calif., for instance, the Apple and Microsoft stores are just 10 steps across from each other. Microsoft said it plans to open a total of 75 permanent stores by 2014. Apple currently operates 373 stores worldwide, 249 of which are in the United States, according to a spokesperson.

Microsoft Stores already sell computers from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as Acer, Asus, Dell, HP and others. Now some of those OEMs are irked about Microsoft competing against them with the Surface while others have altered their tablet product roadmap in response to Surface.

Assuming that the pop-up stores offer the same array of products as the existing Microsoft Stores, the OEM tablets and other computers will share shelf space with the Surface.

Microsoft followers are also reading the company's help wanted ads for other insights into its Surface strategy, noting the posting of an ad for a senior engineer "to work on our next generation Surface."

Currently, two versions of Surface are in the works, one running Windows 8 for the x86-based processor platform, the other running Windows RT for ARM-based platform. Microsoft has said that initially only the Windows RT versions will be sold starting Oct. 26; the Windows 8 Pro x86 version is expected to go on sale about 90 days later.

The "next generation" reference is interpreted to mean what might be called the Surface 2. The ad says the software engineer will join a team including electrical, design and mechanical engineers and others.