Aping Apple in retail leaves Microsoft looking like an old-man shoe store

Sharepoint Server doesn't have the mall appeal of an iPad or Airbook

Microsoft may be losing ground in browsers, email, Web apps and mobile, but it's planning a huge percentage jump in the number of its directly owned retail stores.

Microsoft will open its eighth store within the next few months in University village, swanky shopping center in Seattle -- directly across the aisle from the center's Apple store.

Most of the other seven are across from or very near Apple stores as well, according to the Seattle Times. The first of its stores opened in 2009, selling PCs, Windows Phone 7, Xbox 360, the Kinect game set and other software.

The Microsoft shop will replace a venerable local furniture store whose owner declined to tell local reporters why the store gave up its lease in the open-air, faux-park shopping mall in a tony part of downtown Seattle, just north of the University of Washington and University District.

So far the effect of having its own stores hasn't been revolutionary, despite the proximity to Apple stores and imitative look.

The Microsoft stores just don't have as much to look at or as much people would want to buy when they see it on a shelf, according to an LA Times story comparing traffic at the two in Mission Viejo in Calif.

For a software company that builds hardware only when it has to, and is most successful in business-oriented software that's as visually exciting as walking around a Staples, that's not a big surprise.

It is a big change to see Microsoft desperately wasting money aping other companies in a desperate effort to compete with their success, however.

That tactic has had a tremendous impact on the companies that have tried it to compete with Microsoft. Most of them ended up strategically lost, running faster just to stay in place and, ultimately, exhausted and out of business.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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