It may lack the brick, mortar and experiential flare of the Apple Store, but Microsoft has opened its own one stop shop on the Web. The Microsoft Store is stocked with Microsoft software and hardware products ranging from games, Visual Studio, and Windows to keyboards; it lacks some business applications that are typically purchased under volume license agreements.
The company is targeting netbook PC owners that lack optical drives for installing software, senior program manager Trevin Chow wrote on his blog. Software may be re-downloaded as long as a product is in the mainstream support stage of its life cycle, and product keys are stored for the customer on the Web.
However, there is no mechanism in place to prevent customers from backing up their purchases on physical media, he noted.
The online Microsoft Store will replace Microsoft’s Windows Marketplace e-commerce site, which launched in 2004. Marketplace will stay live, but will point visitors to the Microsoft Store, the Windows Vista Compatibility Center, and other Microsoft online venues.
It would be exceedingly interesting if Microsoft tied its Web application catalog into Live Mesh and made those applications available through its store. After all, it envisions a future where its customers are using multiple devices running distributed applications with data existing in many places. But I digress, and may be overestimating Microsoft’s product groups’ ability to coordinate their efforts.
Today, Microsoft is clearly bypassing its distribution chain by selling direct to customers. I wanted to purchase a LifeCam VX-5500 after its became generally available, and had to go to Amazon to locate some resellers. Had the Microsoft store been open at that time, I would have purchased it directly from Microsoft after I read about it on the product Web page.
The intermediaries on Amazon would only be a better option if I could find free shipping. With luck, Microsoft will have some promotions that I could dig up coupon codes for on RetailMeNot.