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Microsoft Stores

Imagine if you opened a store where selling stuff wasn't the main idea. What would be the point of that?

That's the challenge — and opportunity — facing David Porter, the former Wal-Mart executive just hired by Microsoft to figure out what a Microsoft "store" should be.

In fact, David told the Wall Street Journal that he already has a pretty clear idea: "The purpose of these stores is to create deeper engagement with consumers and learn firsthand about what they want and how they buy," he said.

According to the Journal, "the stores could feature a range of personal products from personal computers running its Windows operating system to cellphones running the company's Windows Mobile operating system to its Xbox videogame console."

But since Microsoft, unlike Apple, is mostly in the software business, David will have to "figure out whether to actually sell computers rather than merely show off their features."

Predictably, some are saying that opening stores risks alienating retailers like Best Buy that sell Microsoft software. Presumably, these are the same people who said Apple would alienate retailers by opening its own stores. Obviously, things turned out okay for Apple.

Things probably will turn out okay for Microsoft, too, because David Porter seems to understand that stores aren't just for selling stuff. They are also for building stronger relationships with your customers and creating better, more relevant, products for them as a result.