Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer wants to outdo Apple in the sheer number of retail stores but has been held back by poor results at what few stores he has, according to sources. Both the executive and COO Kevin Turner would want to pass Apple's 300-plus store count but have had to keep their plans on hold. The stores are designed to mimic Apple's design, which is meant to serve as a halo for the brand, but don't have the according traffic, SAI learned.
As a consequence, any attempt at an aggressive store rollout would likely trigger a rebellion by shareholders, since Microsoft would increase its expenses but likely generate little in return. Microsoft would have to either have a strong need to showcase a product or a rapid improvement in store metrics to justify the cash.
Microsoft's disadvantage has so far been acknowledged as an inherent flaw of its own product ecosystem. Since virtually none of the products in its stores are unique, shoppers have few incentives to make the purchase in the store when they can often find discounts elsewhere. Microsoft has mostly had to trade on slight customization, such as giving PCs "pure" copies of Windows free of the trial apps and utilities that bog down regular retail versions.
The company so far has eight stores and is just opening its first East coast store in the near future, in Atlanta. It will have a total of 10 this spring once a Seattle store opens.