Microsoft Launches First U.S. Store

Amid the souring economy, last Thursday, Microsoft opened its first online store in the U.S., selling all of its products at a one-stop-shop.  Customers will be able to buy and download products via Electronic Software Distribution (ESD) and can also get direct shipments.

With the launch, U.S. customers can buy first-party software and hardware directly from the company via an online catalog. Products include software, devices and hardware, such as Office 2007, Vista, Visual 2008, Windows Server 2008, Xbox 360 consoles and accessories and the new Zune.

In a Microsoft blog, Trevin Chow, senior program manager, said customers will be able to pay for ESD product the same as they would for ones that would be physically shipped. Chow said that the difference is that after payments are confirmed, customers can immediately download products and install them right away. There’s no longer any need to pay shipping costs and waiting for a delivery to your home or office.

In an effort to alleviate concerns that customers may have about not having the software on physical media to reinstall the product at a later time. The store will let users re-download products until mainstream support for the product ends, which is typically five years after the product is released. Customers will always have the option of copying downloaded products to physical media on their own if they want to have it available longer than the mainstream support lifetime.

One major advantage of buying via ESD from the Microsoft Store is that it gives customers the advantage of having perpetual storage of their product keys. Product keys are stored in a Microsoft Store Account alongside a purchase history so they can be recalled and used to re-install software at any time.

The store can be considered a green initiative and better for the environment. Microsoft wants us to think about all the savings of gasoline in shipping products, driving back and forth in your car to a retail store, or even the plastic manufactured and used for the CD jewel cases.

This isn’t a first for Microsoft as stores are already available in the U.K., Germany and Korea. Launches in Japan, France, Spain and the Netherlands are expected in the near future, and more countries will be added throughout the year.

Many VAR’s and software retailers are concerned that Microsoft’s foray into retail sales will negatively affect their business. In a recent interview, Allison Watson, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Group, made no mention of the Microsoft Store and said that there were plenty of opportunities for VARs to grow, as long as they stay focused on projects that improve energy efficiency, boost productivity and drive down costs. “We are committed to working with our partners to help customers realize maximum value and efficiencies from their IT investments in this tough economic climate,” she said. I think the committment is to Microsoft’s bottom line and let the partners chips fall where they may.

Only time will tell.

You can visit their new store @ http://store.microsoft.com/home.aspx

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