Microsoft will open stores in Arizona, California

Software maker confirms it has signed the first two leases as it follows Apple's lead and opens its own set of retail stores.

Microsoft plans to open two of its first retail locations in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Mission Viejo, Calif., CNET News has learned.

The software maker confirmed on Tuesday that it has signed leases in both spots as part of an effort to launch its first retail outlets this fall .

"Over a billion people use our products every day yet we don't always have a way to directly connect with them," said Microsoft spokeswoman Kim Stocks. "We see the physical stores, as well as a consistent online experience, helping that."

The Orange County, Calif., store is in a mall that already houses an Apple retail store. Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner said at this month's Worldwide Partner Conference that some of the locations would be right near Apple stores.

The first stores' fall opening comes at an opportune time for Microsoft, which is launching Windows 7 on October 22.

"We're all very excited at Microsoft that we have a huge wave of innovation on the horizon," Stocks said. "The stores are an opportunity absolutely to share with customers those technologies."

Stocks said that Microsoft heard from customers that they wanted a simpler way to buy PCs.

"Our customers have told us three things--they want a more simplified buying option for PCs and devices, great technology, and competitive prices and a knowledgeable staff."

Over time, Microsoft plans to open stores outside the U.S., but the company hasn't said when that will occur. "The goal is to go global," Stocks said. "We are not sharing specific locations beyond the two we are announcing today."

As for products, Stocks said there will be products "in the areas of laptops, mobility gaming, and software." That will include Microsoft software and hardware, of course, as well as brand-name PCs and software from other companies.

On Friday, some of Microsoft's early store plans were leaked onto the Web . In February, Microsoft confirmed it had hired Wal-Mart veteran David Porter to lead up an effort to open up Microsoft-branded retail stores.

Microsoft declined to confirm the details of what will be in the stores--including a rumored "answer bar"--although Stocks did say that the stores would have both sales and support staff.

 

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