Microsoft partners with Best Buy and Future Shop to bring dedicated Windows section to 105 Canadian stores

Daniel Bader

October 24, 2013 9:02pm

Microsoft is betting big on retail to improve its fortunes this season as it alights dedicated Windows sections inside 105 Best Buy and Future Shop stores across Canada.

I attended the grand opening in Toronto, complete with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and cautiously optimistic tone, to catch a glimpse at how Surface fits into the ecosystem, both figuratively and literally, and to witness the breadth of devices on which Windows 8.1 is preloaded.

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While Best Buy has prominently positioned the Surface table at the front of its display, Greg Barber, VP Consumer Channels at Microsoft Canada, says that it is not trying to overshadow its larger OEM partners, but exist as a reference point for what consumers should expect from the new Windows. As a result, the kiosks will be divided by touch- and non-touch, and not necessarily by price. Surface is a product category now, with four on-market choices if you include last year’s models that Best Buy plans to continue selling, but none of them cater to consumers looking for a large laptop or small tablet.

With Microsoft reporting a solid FQ1 with $18.53 billion revenue USD and net income of just over $5.5 billion, the company is in a good position to move forward with its Windows strategy. With the recent launch of Windows 8.1, the company feels it has a solid foundation on which to push the hybridized one-screen-anywhere model, in which a tablet can turn into a laptop can turn into a desktop with nary a docking station or external monitor.

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I got a distinct feeling that the disparate parts of Microsoft’s Windows strategy will begin cohering over the coming months, especially as Nokia becomes more tightly integrated into the company’s Devices & Services division. Mobile doesn’t play a huge part of its current Best Buy strategy — the retailer has BB Mobile for that — but there is a definite push to convince consumers that Windows is not just an operating system but, by combining Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox, SkyDrive, Skype, Office and others, an ecosystem.

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Most interesting to me is to see how well the new Surface tablets sell. I just picked up the Surface 2 and while it’s a definite improvement over last year’s model — the 1080p display alone is worth the upgrade — and is significantly cheaper than the equivalent-model iPad Air, it still lacks the app ecosystem to justify the purchase for many. At the same time, by removing the “RT” moniker and focusing on how much better the Windows 8.1 experience is over last year, the Surface 2 becomes immediately more compelling.

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Each participating Best Buy and Future Shop store will have at least one “Windows-trained” employee, who is set to wear a distinctive uniform and be more widely-versed on all things Microsoft. The plan is to have these Windows stores-within-stores for three years, both in Canada and the U.S., and Microsoft is promising continual renewal of products and services as they become available. Here’s hoping they made the right decision.

  • silver_arrow

    So my local best buy now has displays for Microsoft, Apple, Chromebooks and Samsung… Well everything in one place i guess…

  • Michael Bazdell

    Saw them setting it up tonight at my local Future Shop. It’s going to be massive. I did get to play with a Surface Pro and was quite impressed with it. Might end up getting one for work instead of a notebook now.

    • Shoey5

      One in my area is already set up, actually looks pretty good

    • KiwiBri

      Surface pro 2?

    • wes

      Buying 1st generation Surface Pro tomorrow! Futureshop dropped the price to a much more reasonable price 650 and 750 for the 64gb and 128gb, respectively. :D

      Then gonna save for a power cover to ensure that there’s enough juice :) seeing as the 1st gen doesn’t have the haswell processor. This will be my desktop and laptop replacement, and in terms of battery life 4-5 hours is better than my 2 hours on my current laptop.

  • Michael Rankin

    Confused, every time I walk into a Bestbuy or Futureshop I’m pretty sure there is a whole department dedicated to Windows based laptops, desktops and surface tablets. Its called the computer section. Good job Microsoft on spending money on something you already had in the stores… LOOK A SHINY SIGN!

    • beyond

      But their mobile devices like phones and tablets are getting mixed up with other OS’s, and then there’s manufacturers like Samsung making devices with different operating systems (android and windows). It is a bit scattered. I think this helps bring the brand and image better into focus.

    • Mike366

      But they only showed outdated ugly thick devices at discounted prices, and hid the most sexy ultrabooks in the dark corners. Now, they will probably show some edge-cutting Windows gadgets in the front shelf.

    • Chris M.

      Nah, you’re missing the point completely. Microsoft Stores (just like Apple Stores) are part of their Marketing Strategy. Microsoft has recognized the need to place a more consumer-friendly approach towards their products as although they dominate Market Share, Apple has traditionally always been tops when it comes to service and accessibility (Seniors, people with low technical knowledge).

      The Microsoft Stores in Canada/US have been wildly successful and are growing at a very fast pace and this just allows them to jump start and get their presence more widespread. The other issue with how it was before was that there were never specialists trained on Microsoft products specifically so a customer that had any question regarding Windows would likely get a lackluster response from a random sales person or had to pay for Support.

      This changes the game for Microsoft and is long-since needed.

  • Petra

    It’s no secret that Best Buy is losing money, and that Microsoft is desperate to build their brand and capture a slice of the tablet and smartphone market. Offering Best Buy a truckload of cash for some coveted floor space is a win-win.

    • MXH070

      Guess Microsoft has an extra 250 million per quarter that they were giving to Nokia, since they bought Nokia no need to shovel the cash out now. best buy gets the cash to push windows 8.

  • gwydionjhr

    I hope it leads to an improvement in my local Victoria Future Shop. Late in the afternoon on launch day for the Surface 2 they didn’t have any on display and the Surface1 was logged out. I spent a good ten minutes explaining the difference between the Surface and Surface Pro to an employer looking for a solution for his employees. They probably could have sold a half dozen if they staff had even bothered to acknowledge us.

    • Mike366

      I guess this is why BestBuy keeps losing money. They have too many stupid or/and iFan employees

    • KiwiBri

      iFan employees only came in recent times…try buying a mac or ipad back in the day when they first carried them.. lol..

  • KiwiBri

    well, when the Surface 1 was released, I went to a local bestbuy to view.. machine was locked on homescreen, the plebs that worked there “didnt work in that section” so couldnt help me, finally I get the store manager to help me as I was pissed off.. 20mins after waiting around some guy who know a bit about it is able to unlock the device and demo it to me. I straight up told the manager back then, “This is why people shop online or in the US or at Apple”. Sorry MS, you didnt get my money then.. and I used to be such a MS fanboy back in the day…

    • Mythos88

      I always know what I want before I go into a place like Future Shop. I certainly do not depend on them to sway me one way or the other.

  • frogstar42

    The one near me no longer sells components. I couldn’t get a video card or DVD drive.

  • Ali F.

    The brain washing process has started … Soon, next young generation will get use to MS and will probably buy only MS products

    • Umar Contest

      Yeah, they should instead buy only google phones, chrome books, and their data mining products. Being brainwashed by google is fine, by any one else is taboo.

    • Ali F.

      I do not know why you assumed that. What I meant was simply that MS is now on the attack and will start its part of brainwashing just like the iPhone and Samsung zombies and they proved in the past to be good at it. I do have a HP Pre 3 and a Nexus 4 and an Ativ S and recommended already Nokia 920 to my friends. So do not worry, I am not any how brainwashed by any OS … except by the beauty of WebOS.

    • Ryan

      What you call brainwashing, sounds more like advertising.

      My Future Shop has a horrible set-up currently for Surface’s. They are at an end isle, some mixed in with Mac Mini’s and Chromebooks.
      All this will do is keep them in one area with other MS products, which is pretty much what my FS does with Apple products currently.

  • MrGreen72

    That god damn arrow you see on the 3rd pic, it sometimes shows up on my desktop after upgrading to 8.1 and there’s no way to make it go away with a mouse. FIX IT!

    • Mike366

      just do the gesture as the arrow shows, and it will go away. With mouse, Just move the cursor to the left bottom corner, and move up it straight up, and then you will see the app summary bar on the left side, and click one of them.

  • wolfcda

    Maybe this will make my local Future Shop actually *charge* the Surface tablets they have on display so people can use them. Frustrating. :P

  • Ryan

    Hopefully this will make the Future Shop a bit more organized. Can’t speak for our Best Buy as I haven’t been there in ages, but FS is terrible.

    They have an alright set-up for Macbooks, iMacs and iPads, but the Surface’s are all over. Two at an end isle, more mixed in with Mac Mini’s and some put in with Chromebooks.