ifoAppleStore has an extensive writeup on the recent opening of Microsoft’s second retail store in Mission Viejo, California. ifoAppleStore notes that Microsoft’s copying of Apple’s design elements in its retail stores is extensive, but observes that the finished product is objectively second class when compared to Apple’s.
While the Microsoft stores may resemble the existing Apple stores in some measure, they lack an element that has been a critical for establishing Apple’s brand—quality. For every architectural element that Microsoft has duplicated from Apple’s stores, they have failed to copy the materials, craftsmanship and pride that go with them.
The similarities of the Microsoft store to what Apple has already accomplish is remarkable. The general layout of the store, the storefront, the lighting, floor and product displays are common between the two companies. Beyond that, there are extraordinary similarities: the employee name tags and their lanyards, the under-table bag dispensers and receipt printers, the Answers counter and its configuration, the use of mobile computers for POS, the children’s table, and the identical nature of Microsoft’s store services: extended warranty, personal shopping and training. Microsoft even has an on-line reservation system for its in-store service and training.
One architectural difference is obvious: a line of support columns interrupts the interior, running from front-to-back just left of the centerline of the store. Such an interruption is something that Apple’s architects would not tolerate.
In a world where retail design has become a profession and industry, it’s difficult to understand how an independent retail designer could have arrived at the same store solution as Apple. In fact, thousands of retailers have sought out ways to distinguish themselves from competitors, hiring experts to design unique methods of displaying and selling their products. In this case, Microsoft’s solution appears to be Apple’s, too.
They even came up with the following chart highlighting the myriad of ways Microsoft looked to Apple for retail inspiration. The entire article can be found over here, and is well worth checking out.