Microsoft to open its first store in the UK

Tuesday, 4 June, 2019

On 11 July Microsoft will open its first physical store in the UK, located in London’s Oxford Circus. The store will be set out over three floors measuring nearly 22,000 square feet in total. Features revealed so far include an Answer Desk, immersive video walls and interactive zones.

This is not their first store ever but is their first in Europe. Back in 2009 they opened a shop in Scottsdale, Arizona to coincide with the launch of Windows 7. At the time Microsoft said it was time ‘to engage more directly with customers and improve their existence of purchasing and using Microsoft-based technology.’

Ten years on it seems Microsoft is finally offering us Brits the means ‘to engage more directly’ with the tech giant.

Without doubt Microsoft has been sluggish in opening stores compared with its rival Apple. Worldwide they have 90 stores in the US, seven in Canada, one in Australia and one in Puerto Rico, and that’s it. Compare that with the 506 stores Apple has opened in 24 countries since 2001.

Back in 2009 Microsoft opened the store in what was perceived as a reaction to Apple’s stores, which were often seen as a slick operation. Unfortunately, it is sadly true that PCs on display in a shop window can seem cheap and boring, especially when compared to Apple’s exciting displays.

A secondary consideration is that with a physical retail site, Microsoft can offer the public ‘clean installations’ of Windows. Generally, third party sellers of PCs often cram them with shoddy software packages that can damage a user’s experience. Buying direct from Microsoft offers a much better and cleaner install.

The Oxford Circus store is located close to Apple’s store on Regent Street and Microsoft has a history of locating their stores close to Apple. Whether this is a coincidence or by design is unclear.

In an effort to differentiate from Apple the Oxford Circus store will offer interactive zones where visitors will be able to experiment with Microsoft’s latest hardware, including their HoloLens mixed reality headsets.

The community theatre will be where the company will run year-round workshops on such issues as coding and STEM. STEM is Microsoft’s educational arm and stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Apple offers a similar educational service, but Microsoft wants to broaden its appeal particularly from business professionals and more towards educators themselves. The Answer Desk will offer punters support, advice and repairs and will be open to all devices regardless of brand, where the device was purchased or even its operating system.

Image: crpietschmann

Tim Bamford author picture


Tim is a veteran freelance journalist writing extensively on internet news and cybersecurity.