Microsoft to Open Six More Retail Stores in 2012

Microsoft is will continue to pursue sales expansion by opening additional brick-and-mortar retail stores. It remains to be seen if it will boost Surface tablet sales.

Microsoft is expanding its retail presence next year by opening at least six new locations, the company announced today.

The news caps a year of rapid store openings, said Jonathan Adashek, general manager of communications and strategy for Microsoft's Sales and Marketing Services Group.

"It's been a momentous year for the Microsoft retail stores. We opened 51 new full-line and specialty stores, including our first international stores in Edmonton, Burnaby, Vancouver and Toronto, Canada, in just the last year," Adashek posted on Microsoft's official blog.

According to Adashek, new Microsoft Stores will open at The Shops at La Cantera in San Antonio, Texas, and at the Dadeland Mall in Miami. Other locations include St. Louis Galleria in St. Louis, City Creek Center in Salt Lake City and Beachwood Place in Beachwood, Ohio.

West coasters will get at least one new location in the coming year. In California, Microsoft is readying some space in the Westfield San Francisco shopping center.

Citing success with some of its pop-up stores, the company plans to convert some of them into permanent outlets, added Adashek. Microsoft opened the short-term locations in preparation for the holiday-shopping season and the official launch of its Surface tablet.

Microsoft is following a retail strategy that Apple pioneered.

Apple Stores are distinguished by a simple, minimalist aesthetic, in-store events and classes and a customer-centric experience anchored by the company's Genius Bar. The iPad maker also has a habit of situating its stores in high-rent areas and tourist meccas.

In New York City, for example, Apple has locations in SoHo, the Meatpacking District and near Lincoln Center. Its iconic "glass cube" location beckons big spenders in midtown's tony Fifth Avenue shopping district.

Apple Stores have proven exceedingly successful for the company. Not only do they draw foot traffic and let potential buyers get some valuable hands-on time with the company's sleek gadgets, they are potent sales engines in their own right.

On average, Apple stores rake in more than $6,000 per square foot, topping Retail Sails rankings of U.S. chains, according to a recent report in All Things D. In second place is Tiffany & Co. with roughly half of Apple's haul.

With Surface sales becalmed, Microsoft can only hope that Apple's retail success rubs off on the company.

Surface sales have lost their spark after an encouraging spurt of activity immediately after Microsoft launched the tablet. Analysts blamed Microsoft's restrictive distribution policy, which meant consumers could only try out Surface tablets at a Microsoft Store or order one online.

The company has since reversed course. And just in time, too.

In January, Microsoft is unveiling Surface Pro, an Intel i5-powered slate that can run both Windows RT-style software and classic Windows applications. While the new device is pricier than the RT version ($899 versus $499), Microsoft is clearly courting enterprises, business users and enthusiasts wanting a tablet-like experience but requiring hardware that is compatible with Windows' vast software library.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...