Right after, we walked into the small apple store that is just a few hundred yards down from the Microsoft store. I wouldn't have thought it possible, but somehow Microsoft has managed to make their store seem modern, hip, and exciting.
The Microsoft store was jam packed with people, with clusters of people waiting around tables to try:
1. New Surface Tablets,
2. Windows Phone devices like Nokia's Lumia 900
3. Regular notebooks/ ultra books running Windows RT
Besides being surprised at the sheer volume of people in the store, all of the flat panel displays around the stores, the visual merchandizing, and light and airy interior decor made me feel like i was in a room full of new and exciting tech.
It felt like my first trip to the Apple store. Yet different ... maybe even "beautifully different" (yes i went there, and rocked the Windows Phone Lumia tag line in my post).
The second big shock came right after. When we walked into the Apple store a few hundred yards away. It was no longer surprising or different, it felt like the vanilla standard for what Tier 1 consumer electronics retail store should look and feel like. Sure its the de facto standard, but it felt almost too familiar . It's as if the roles of the two brands swapped. Microsoft was the fresh and exciting underdog and apple was the big , safe, and dominant brand in the space.
Based on the retail experience, i would say that i am now more confident then ever in the commercial success of Windows 8 / RT / Windows Phone. The consolidation of the various computing platforms onto the same kernel will finally unite Microsofts various developers, which is a win for users. Their retail stores are clearly a win for users and phone OEM partners like Nokia. And last but not least, the interactive design and branding of Windows Phone or "Metro" is really coming into its own now that you can see how it plays out on a smart phone , tablet, and regular notebook.