As it prepares to double the number of retail stores from two to four, Microsoft's bricks-and-mortar efforts are earning high marks from customers. Imitating Apple's highly successful retail efforts, Microsoft's stores boast tech-savvy service people and an inviting layout. "The first couple of stores have done what they were hoping they would do," said NPD Group analyst Stephen Baker. "It gives them a platform to talk to consumers about what Microsoft has to offer and to generate interest and buzz about their products."

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