Wait a minute. Is this an Apple store?

In Microsoft's pop-up store in Times Square store today, there was a little confusion, a little curiosity, and a lot of resemblance to another big tech company.

Microsoft opened a pop-up store in New York's Times Square to promote and sell its new Windows operating system and its Surface tablet. Shara Tibken/CNET
This week marked a pretty big time for Microsoft. It launched Windows 8 and its new Surface tablet, and it also opened up its first stores -- albeit temporary -- in New York.

But the reaction to all three has been a little mixed. It's uncertain what sort of demand Windows 8 will see, and reviewers say the company's Surface is innovative but lacks apps.

In the stores, meanwhile, there's a little confusion, a little curiosity, and a lot of resemblance to Apple.

The software giant officially unveiled Windows 8 yesterday during a New York event. To bring more attention -- and garner more sales -- it opened two temporary Windows Stores in New York, one in Times Square and the other in the Time Warner Center near Central Park.

Visiting the Times Square store felt a little like deja vu. Everything from the floors to the employees looked a lot like the fixtures in Apple's iconic stores. Windows Store workers were wearing brightly colored shirts that say "Click in and do more," and all had badges around their necks with their name.

The Windows Store itself featured large signs on the walls showing close-ups of Surface and minimal amounts of text, and demo stations were set up neatly around the room for customers to actually try out the tablet and its keyboard options. The Surface tables were pretty busy, though the Windows 8 table looked pretty lonely.

Both Manhattan locations are in heavily trafficked areas, which means the store clientele is a sort of hodgepodge of tourists, businesspeople, and Microsoft fans. In the Times Square location this morning, all of the visitors really wanted to see the Surface, but there also was some confusion about what it's capable of doing.

One of Microsoft's pop-up stores is in the Manhattan's busy Times Square. Shara Tibken/CNET
Microsoft employees patiently walked customers through demos and tried to explain the benefits of the Windows RT system. But no, they admitted, it doesn't do some things consumers are used to doing on Windows, like playing certain games.

For some people, that didn't matter. Melinda George, manager of the store, wouldn't provide CNET with sales details, but she did say the store is running low on certain Surface products.

"We're selling out fast," she said.

One such buyer, Mark (who declined to give his last name because his boss thought he was on a bathroom break), said he owns Apple products and likes them, but he wanted something with broader functionality than the iPad -- namely, access to more traditional PC applications.

He shrugged off concerns about legacy compatability and a shortage of apps, saying that happens with every new platform. And he noted that people always seem to find something to criticize about Microsoft.

"Microsoft could come out with immortality and people wouldn't be a fan," he said.

And Carlos Vargas and Federico Comes, lawyers from Puerto Rico in town on business, each bought a Surface after first considering the Barnes & Noble Nook.

"The Nook is fine is you really just want an e-reader," Vargas said. But he wanted to access Office and other programs through his device.

Federico Comes and Carlos Vargas get a demo from a Windows Store employee. Shara Tibken/CNET
Most people seemed pretty absorbed by the Surface, with one couple from out of the country saying they didn't have time to talk because they wanted to focus on checking out the device.

And some of Microsoft's own execs were checking out the store and new device, as were employees from partners like B&N.

The Times Square store opened at 10 p.m. ET yesterday, welcoming about 600 waiting customers, according to a Microsoft spokeswoman. At 10:30, Microsoft had a steady flow of visitors, and a security guard told CNET that about 1,000 people had entered the store between 6 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

How many of those became Surface buyers is unclear. But if Microsoft's main goal was getting attention for its new OS and device, it appears to have succeeded.

 

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