Microsoft to Open Retail Stores

Redmond, Wash. After watching its rival Apple Corp. build one of the retail industry’s most admired chains, Microsoft Corp. announced it will open retail stores under its own banner.

To spearhead the effort, the computer giant has hired David Porter, head of worldwide product distribution for DreamWorks Animation SKG, as corporate VP, retail stores. Prior to joining Dreamworks, Porter spent 25 years at Wal-Mart Stores, where, in his last role, he served as VP and general merchandise manager, Entertainment.

At Microsoft, Porter will report to COO Kevin Turner, another Wal-Mart veteran. Turner served as chief executive of Wal-Mart's Sam's Club division before joining Microsoft in 2005.

“There are tremendous opportunities ahead for Microsoft to create a world-class shopping experience for our customers,” Porter said.

In a release, Microsoft said Porter will lead its efforts to create “a better PC and Microsoft retail purchase experience for consumers worldwide through the development and opening of the company’s own retail stores.”

The company said that Porter's first order of business will be defining the time frame, locations and specifics for planned Microsoft-branded retail stores.

"The purpose of opening these stores is to create deeper engagement with consumers and continue to learn firsthand about what they want and how they buy," according to the release.

Microsoft has taken tentative steps into retail in recent months. As part of its Windows marketing campaign, the company launched "Windows-branded sales environments and store-within-a-store concepts" at Circuit City and Best Buy. Also, the company has tested various retail concepts in a 20,000-sq.-ft. warehouse in Redmond, Wash., reportedly complete with shelves displaying Xbox games and big computer monitors with touch-sensitive screens.

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