Microsoft tempting away Apple's retail help?

Work here? This "Retail Experience Center" at Microsoft's Redmond, Wash. campus could provide some clues as to what Microsoft's new stores will look like.

Genius, guru, same difference, right?

Word spread quickly this morning after The Loop's Jim Dalrymple reported that Microsoft had begun offering some Apple store employees sweet deals to jump ship and come work in their new retail outlets, citing anonymous sources.

The offers allegedly are coming to store managers, who, after signing on with Redmond, are contacting top Apple salespeople and offering them similar deals.

Microsoft's coming retail stores are slated to pop up in close proximity to existing Apple stores, as was reported in July.

Citing past Microsoft retail experiments, PC World's David Coursey offers a word of caution to Apple's would-be switchers (no, not that kind).

My advice to anyone at an Apple Store who finds Microsoft Money (the real thing, not the dead app) dangled in his or her face: Beware! Microsoft has bailed on a retail concept before. It happened in San Francisco, and while I feel Microsoft is committed this time, failure is quite possible. Though it could be years in the making.

It's an argument not far from the beloved "lipstick on a pig": A Microsoft retail store, even gussied up with an Apple Store's knowledgeable and friendly staff, is still selling Microsoft products – which is mostly software, not impulse-baiting hardware.

Besides the perception issues, Microsoft faces a daunting challenge in bringing products from a host of vendors under one umbrella. Apple stores are dealing with products whose hardware and software were designed and put together by the same company. For Microsoft, the scene is very different. ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes explains:

While Microsoft Stores will certainly focus on Microsoft branded products, major products such as PCs are going to be produced by third-parties. That brand dilution will mean that it’s hard for Microsoft to have the same level of control over the experience that Apple does.
Then there’s the Guru Bar. I’ve never been to an Apple Store when the Genius Bar wasn’t busy, and Macs are supposed to “just work.” I hate to think how overworked Guru Bar staff are going to be. Not only that, but they’re going top have to be proficient in PCs and other hardware from countless vendors. That’s a tough gig that’s going to be the cause of a lot of grey hairs for support staff.


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