Retail: Where Windows Fails

While OS X is available, officially, on only five products, you can get Windows in all shapes and sizes. Walk into a store that sells computers and you’ll probably find aisles appended with more aisles of computers running Windows, in various designs and form factors, and, most certainly, with different price tags.

While this strategy helps to push a dominating market share for Windows, it’s not a great retail experience and does very little to promote stellar products amongst the mediocre ones. And, it’s probably why critically-aclaimed products like the Surface (side note: yes, I know the device hasn’t actually been reviewed, but it’s been well received, conceptually at least) will ultimately not see the same level of success as the iPad. Perhaps one day Windows 8 might overtake iOS as the dominate tablet platform, but the hardware itself will likely sell far less units than Apple’s. Let’s investigate…

So, you want to buy a new computer…

So, you want to buy a new computer. For an audience like us, we probably already have a good idea of what we want to buy and will do hours of research online to make sure we’re making a good, educated purchase. If not, and if we visit a box box retailer, we come with various prejudices against brands, preferences and an ability to make sense of the statistics and specifications we’re presented with.

Not everyone is like this, though. The majority of customers, especially those who use these types of retail channels, will have little ability to make an educated purchase when little is done to differentiate products on a shelf, and when little is shown to demonstrate a machine’s aptitude. This results in a potential scenario where two products can be juxtaposed without clarity over which one is better, even though one definately is.

Ever bought anything from somewhere like this? (Image courtesy of “Coolcaesar”, a user on the English Wikipedia).

Contrast this with an Apple store, where products are laid out spaciously and can actually be used, rather than just be observed while they run a looped video. Just like you can test drive a car, you can actually play about with a Mac before buying, something not generally possible in the physical retail channels that sell PCs. Even this experience isn’t just limited to the sale of Apple products in their official stores; even in big box stores, just across from cramped presentation of PCs is sometimes a familiar, spacious wooden bench with usable Macs on show.

Windows 8 Tablets May Succeed, But Not The Surface

Let’s face it; the Surface is probably going to be the best Windows 8 tablet for the foreseeable future. Both Google and Apple have shown that first-party hardware delivers the best user experiences and it’s likely that Microsoft’s completely in-house product will fill similar expectations. However, while it might have the advantage of being listed highly on a reviews site, in physical retail, it’ll be presented not on a pedestal, but in exactly the same way to the devices that are inferior.

When the Windows 8 tablets begin rolling in, the Surface will have to compete with them for the attention of retail customers, giving it an unfair disadvantage. It’s a better product, but not everyone will be able to realise that and sales will divide. So, while buying any tablet will benefit the Windows platform by producing an extra sale, the individual hardware probably won’t see a just amount of success.

Perhaps one of the best retail experiences in the world.

Google and Microsoft have took some commendable steps towards improving their products, and now it’s time for a new challenge: bettering the retail experience. I don’t mean rolling out more Microsoft stores, either. They need to get involved with third-party retail channels and take more control over how their products are presented to get them the coverage they deserve, and to be able to make customers choose the best product at the time.