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Microsoft stores to get in Apple's face this autumn

Triumph of the mall

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WPC Microsoft will open its promised retail outlets this Autumn right next door to Apple's shops, in what sounds like a Nietzsche-style test of corporate will and destiny.

Kevin Turner, Microsoft's chief operating officer, promised partners Wednesday that the outlets would open in time for Christmas and the back-to-school PC and Mactastic shopping seasons.

That means the outlets - Microsoft's first on a large scale - will open around the launch of Windows 7 and help carry sales during the lucrative end-of-year shopping periods.

Microsoft said in February it planned a series of retail outlets that would "create deeper engagement" with customers. Turner has assumed responsibly for the shops, but they are being directly driven by Turner's former Wal-Mart colleague David Porter.

"We will have some retail stores that are opened up right next door to Apple stores this fall," Turner told Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. "I know something about retail and we've hired an incredible team."

"Something" is right. Wal-Mart is an out-of-town, big-box retailer not some designer merchant slotted next to the Zara in your local mall. Wal-Marts are to an inviting and a personally helpful shopping experience what Lindsay Lohan is to a healthy and mutually loving relationship.

There were no more details on the outlets but as with Microsoft's Azure cloud and online services, Turner indicated mistakes would be made. But Microsoft will learn from these and share its findings.

"Everything we learn in those stores we are going to share openly and transparently with partners," Turner said. "We are in the game for the long term here."

Besides, what does not kill us makes us stronger and the important thing is that Microsoft "rebuilds" a fighting spirit and competitive model to grow its market share. At least, that's Turner's mantra.

That competitive will and determination comes from within, not from marketing materials.

"Competing is a test of will, competing is personal, competing is partner and employer specific, competing is in here," Turner told WPC as he gripped his chest.

"The importance of growing our market share - this is our battle cry, our rally cry... I have truly deduced the winners and losers in this environment will be determined by the market share won or lost. Now it boils down to growing market share.

"We gotta have the fighting spirit to compete to win in the marketplace," Turner said.

On the Azure cloud and online services, Turner said: "We don't know what we don't know on that, but we are going to figure it out and figure it out with partners."

He also exhorted partners to get behind Bing even though they might not like it. Turner said Microsoft had committed to deliver two updates to Bing a year.

"We got a long way to go. But we have momentum. I love the fact we have a brand and a name for our search engine, and whether you like the name Bing or not it's pretty unforgettable and it's up to you to turn Bing into a verb," he said.

As to lessons learned, Turner joined Microsoft's mea-culpa culture on Windows Vista saying it had learned its lessons for Windows 7. He promised applications and hardware certified with Windows Vista would work with Windows 7.

Turner said he'd been "taken out back" in customer meetings over Windows Vista. Turner was a prime cheerleader on Windows Vista at the partner conference in 2007, downplaying acute problems over the lack of hardware and software that worked with the then-new operating system.

"The momentum we have around Windows 7 feels really, really good and after the Vista launch how could it not? That's a tough one," Turner said.

On the enterprise, it was the fighting talk that epitomized the do-or-die culture Turner expects Microsoft employees and its partners to live and breathe. At Microsoft's annual worldwide sales meeting next week, he plans to dish out awards to Microsoft county units he said had "completely eradicated" Lotus Notes from their region using Microsoft software.

He also said that Microsoft will measure itself in fiscal 2010 by its database-market market share. Sounding the warning bells on Oracle's potential acquisition of Sun Microsystems, Turner noted Oracle has a history of raising its prices and keeping customers hostage - facts Microsoft and partners can leverage to win market share. ®

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