Microsoft unveils future retail store plans

Will open six permanent stores in early 2013, including four transformed from temporary holiday 'pop-ups'

Microsoft on Wednesday revealed six locations for new retail stores it will open in early 2013, including four transformed from its holiday specialty stores, dubbed "pop-ups," that it established in October.

The move will expand the company's ability to sell its own hardware, notably the Surface RT tablet launched two months ago, and the upcoming Surface Pro.

Geekwire first reported the new outlets. Microsoft also blogged about the 2013 store locations.

According to Microsoft, the new brick-and-mortar sites will be in Beachwood, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio (at Beachwood Place); Miami (Dadeland Mall); St. Louis (St. Louis Galleria); Salt Lake City (City Creek Center); San Antonio (The Shops at La Cantera); and San Francisco (Westfield San Francisco Centre).

Four of the six -- those in Beachwood, Miami, St. Louis and San Francisco -- will be former pop-ups turned into permanent locales.

Earlier this month, Microsoft announced it was extending the lifespan of most of its 34 holiday pop-ups into 2013 -- originally, they were to exist only during the October-Decemeber 2012 sales season -- and turn an unspecified number into 12-month stores.

Microsoft has declined to say how long the pop-ups will remain open, but the logical move would be to keep them running well into 2013: The company plans to start selling the Surface Pro, a more expensive tablet that runs Windows 8 Pro, in late January.

The Surface Pro will sell for $899 and $999 in 64GB and 128GB configurations, with the Touch Cover and Type Cover keyboards selling separately for $120 and $130.

Some of the to-be-established stores have been long in the works. The Salt Lake Tribune, for example, reported last July that Microsoft had filed a building permit with the city for a store in the downtown City Creek Center.

That outdoor mall also boasts an Apple retail store. Microsoft's strategy has been to place its retail stores in the same malls or shopping centers as existing Apple stores, sometimes in very close proximity. Although Salt Lake's City Creek Center noted that the Microsoft store was in the works, it did not locate the store on its mall map.

The San Francisco store, one of the mutated pop-ups, will be Microsoft's first in the city. The current closest outlet is in Marin County. Microsoft's San Francisco store will be about a block from one of the city's three Apple stores.

With the addition of the six new stores, Microsoft will soon have 37 permanent storefronts in the U.S. and Canada. However, its total of 67, including the remaining pop-ups, is only 17% of Apple's 390 stores worldwide as of last September.

Two weeks ago, Microsoft also expanded its retail footprint to a pair of U.S. chains, Staples and Best Buy, to sell its Surface tablets, and announced it would add retail partners in several other countries in the near future.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Read more about retail in Computerworld's Retail Topic Center.

This story, "Microsoft unveils future retail store plans" was originally published by Computerworld.

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