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Pros and cons of Microsoft's move into Best Buy storefronts

There are pluses and minuses to this trend. The pluses are all in Microsoft's favor.

On the heels of Samsung and following the successful lead of Apple, Microsoft has announced it will open a store-within-a-store at select Best Buy locations. The first stores will start to roll out this month and will cover 600 Best Buy storefronts in the U.S. and Canada by September.

Like the Apple and Samsung stores, the Microsoft stores within Best Buy will average 1,900 square feet in size, give or take a few hundred square feet, depending on the store. It will include a range of Microsoft consumer products, like PCs, Surface, Office, Windows Phones and Xbox.

These stores will be staffed by Microsoft employees, who know their stuff, not Best Buy employees with cursory knowledge. There will be co-marketing campaigns, including online and offline offerings, for big sales periods, like back-to-school, Christmas and spring.

There was a little confusion over the PC sales part of it. Microsoft has had its Signature line for a few years, where it sells laptops from the major vendors like HP and Dell but without the crapware that pollutes so many PCs. It’s kind of ridiculous that it took Microsoft to get that part right. A few weeks back, I purchased a slightly dated HP laptop with Windows 7 and promptly spent two hours removing unnecessary junk that kept popping up and bugging me.

I spoke to Best Buy and they said they have to work out the balance when it comes to who will sell what when it comes to PCs. When it comes to everything else Microsoft-related, that will fall to the 'Softies. Have fun catching the spears over the Xbox One.

So, who loses? Well, DVD publishers, for starters. I asked a Best Buy employee what they will cut back to make room for Microsoft. They said DVDs, software and digital cameras. The first two I can see. Music has already taken a huge hit at Best Buy as it loses favor to iTunes and Amazon. DVD was the next to go.

Blu-ray sales are actually up despite the perception that permanent media is on the way out. But, again, it's hard to compete with Amazon and its mass discounting, so this will be a more unfortunate but not unexpected hit.

Cutting back on software is also regrettable because the software section at Best Buy is already pathetic. As it is, they break it up into two sections. The productivity apps like Office and Quicken and antivirus programs are over by the hardware, while games are closer to the consoles. I guess Steam is one step closer to owning the PC gaming market.

The digital camera section I can see taking a hit. With 10-megapixel cameras in smartphones, the low end for digital cameras is seriously endangered. A smartphone will never replace a DSLR, but that market will likely thrive in camera specialty shops. I know I'd rather go to a camera specialist to buy a $1,000 camera than Best Buy.

I wonder how many more stores-within-a-store BB can handle. As it is, this is only going into the biggest stores in the area. My local Best Buy won't get it. Only the very large stores in Tustin and Costa Mesa will get it. Right now, BB has three stores inside itself: Magnolia, for high-end audio, Apple, and Samsung. It would be unfortunate for brick and mortar to cut off the long tail of smaller retailers in favor of the few guaranteed to sell, but that looks like the trend.

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