Sunday, October 28, 2012 10:04 AM
Microsoft has gotten a lot of flack for the Surface from OEM/hardware partners who create Windows-based devices and I’m sure, to an extent, retailers who normally stock and sell Windows-based devices. I mean we all know how this is supposed to work – Microsoft makes the OS, partners make the hardware, retailers sell the hardware. Now Microsoft is breaking the rules by not only offering their own hardware but selling them via online and through their Microsoft branded stores!
The thought has been that Microsoft is trying to set a standard for the other hardware companies to reach for. Maybe. I hope, at some level, Microsoft may be covertly responding to frustrations associated with trusting the OEMs and Retailers to deliver on their part of the supply chain. I know as a consumer, I’m very frustrated with the Windows 8 launch. Aside from the Surface sales, there’s nothing happening at the retail level.
Let me back up and explain. Over the weekend I visited a number of stores in hopes of trying out various Windows 8 devices. Out of three retailers (Staples, Best Buy, and Future Shop), not *one* met my expectations.
Let me be honest with you Staples, I never really have high expectations from your computer department. If I need paper or pens, whatever, but computers – you’re not the top of my list for price or selection. Still, considering you flaunted Win 8 devices in your flyer I expected *something* – some sign of effort that you took the Windows 8 launch seriously.
As I entered the 1910 Pembina Highway location in Winnipeg, there was nothing – no signage, no banners – nothing that would suggest Windows 8 had even launched. I made my way to the laptops. I had to play with each machine to determine which ones were running Windows 8. There wasn’t anything on the placards that made it obvious which were Windows 8 machines and which ones were Windows 7. Likewise, there was no easy way to identify the touch screen laptop (the HP model) from the others without physically touching the screen to verify. Horrible experience.
In the same mall as the Staples I mentioned above, there’s a Future Shop. Surely they would be more on the ball. I walked in to the 1910 Pembina Highway location and immediately realized I would not get a better experience. Except for the sign by the front door mentioning Windows 8, there was *nothing* in the computer department pointing you to the Windows 8 devices. Like in Staples, the Win 8 laptops were mixed in with the Win 7 ones and there was nothing notable calling out which ones were running Win 8.
I happened to hit up the St. James Street location today, thinking since its a busier store they must have more options. To their credit, they did have two staff members decked out in Windows 8 shirts and who were helping a customer understand Windows 8. But otherwise, there was nothing highlighting the Windows 8 devices and they were again mixed in with the rest of the Win 7 machines.
Finally, we have the St. James Street Best Buy location here in Winnipeg. I’m sure Best Buy will have their act together. Nope, not even close. Same story as the others: minimal signage (there was a sign as you walked in with a link to this schedule of demo days), Windows 8 hardware mixed with the rest of the PC offerings, and no visible call-outs identifying which were Win 8 based.
This meant that, like Future Shop and Staples, if you wanted to know which machine had Windows 8 you had to go and scrutinize each machine. Also, there was nothing identifying which ones were touch based and which were not.
Just Another Day…
To these retailers, it seemed that the Windows 8 launch was just another day, with another product to add to the showroom floor. Meanwhile, Apple has their dedicated areas *in all three stores*. It was dead simple to find where the Apple products were compared to the Windows 8 products. No wonder Microsoft is starting to push their own retail stores. No wonder Microsoft is trying to funnel orders through them instead of relying on these bloated retail big box stores who obviously can’t manage a product launch.
It’s Not Just The Retailers…
Remember when the Acer CEO, Founder, and President of Computer Global Operations all weighed in on how Microsoft releasing the Surface would have a “huge negative impact for the ecosystem and other brands may take a negative reaction”? Also remember the CEO stating “[making hardware] is not something you are good at so please think twice”?
Well the launch day has come and gone, and so far Microsoft is the only one that delivered on having hardware available on the October 26th date. Oh sure, there are laptops running Windows 8 – but all in one desktop PCs? I’ve only seen one or two! And tablets are *non existent*, with some showing an early to late November availability on Best Buy’s website!
So while the retailers could be doing more to make it easier to find Windows 8 devices, the manufacturers could help by *getting devices into stores*! That’s supposedly something that these companies are good at, according to the Acer CEO.
So Here’s What the Retailers and Manufacturers Need To Do…
Get Product Out
The pivotal timeframe will be now to the end of November. We need to start seeing all these fantastic pieces of hardware ship – including the Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro, the Acer Iconia, the Asus TAICHI 21, and the sexy Samsung Series 7 27” desktop. It’s not enough to see product announcements, we need to see actual devices.
Make It Easy For Customers To Find Win8 Devices
You want to make it easy to sell these things? Make it easy for people to find them! Have staff on hand that really know how these devices run and what can be done with them. Don’t just have a single demo day, have people who can demo it every day!
Make It Easy to See the Features
There’s touch screen desktops, touch screen laptops, tablets, non-touch laptops, etc. People need to easily find the features for each machine. If I’m looking for a touch-laptop, I shouldn’t need to sift through all the non-touch laptops to find them – at the least, I need to quickly be able to see which ones are touch. I feel silly even typing this because this should be retail 101 and I have no retail background (but I do have an extensive background as a customer).
Microsoft launching the Surface and selling them through their own channels isn’t slapping its OEM and retail partners in the face; its slapping them to wake the hell up and stop coasting through Windows launch events like they don’t matter. Unless I see some improvements from vendors and retailers in November, I may just hold onto my money for a Surface Pro even if I have to wait until early 2013.
Your move OEM/Retailers.
*Update – While my experience has been in Winnipeg, similar experiences have been voiced from colleagues in Calgary and Edmonton.