Microsoft is really making a serious push into retail, as evidenced by what I've seen today at the opening of their first retail store. One of the biggest issues with software sales at retail is the real estate that it takes up on the sales floor. You can't possibly have every product available for the consumer to buy. Or can you?
At Microsoft Stores, customers will be able to purchase anything in the Microsoft catalog of PC software, even if the retail box is not carried in the store. Using a kiosk with a touchscreen display that resembles a stripped down, user-friendly version of the Microsoft online store, customers will be able to add products to a cart. Once finished, you save your cart with a name and approach any of the store's representatives with a handheld computer.
After paying with cash or credit card, the disc, cover and manual are printed in the back of the store. The entire process takes about four minutes and the final result looks just as good as if you'd purchased the retail box.
This is the kind of thing I've been waiting to see for years (in fact, about five years ago, I proposed a similar solution to the executives at a major retailer I worked for to better manage CD and DVD sales). Having a one-stop shop for everything Microsoft has to offer without having to worry about shipping times from an online store or praying that the big box retailer down the street will have what you want in stock is a huge advantage for the new chain. Well done, Microsoft.