A tale of two stores: Apple vs Microsoft



Apple vs Microsoft

Microsoft may be headed for a smackdown in Manhattan. The maker of all devices PC is reportedly laying ground for a retail outlet just six blocks from Apple's Fifth Avenue store, one of the most photographed landmarks in New York. And a glistening cube that rakes in more than the sparklers at nearby Tiffany & Co. If Redmond had only taken note from what happens in Oregon: here's our totally unabashedly unscientific pictorial take on Apple and Microsoft stores in downtown Portland. All photos: Nicole Martinelli/Cult of Mac

Apple vs Microsoft

There's just a two-minute walk between Apple's Pioneer Place store and Microsoft's retail outlet, with plenty of tony shops like Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co. in between.


It's a Thursday afternoon in late July. And you can definitely hear crickets in the Microsoft store...


Same weekday afternoon in July and the Apple store is packed.

Take Two

This woman walked past the Apple store asking directions to Microsoft. I thought I'd give the store a second chance and see if it'd become more busy.

As good as it gets

There were about three customers in the whole store the second time around..

Deals of the Day

  • Jeff Wasden

    Copying a competitor’s strategy is rarely the best strategy. Over the years, Microsoft has been a copy cat “innovator.” They have copied or bought most of their products and IP. A copy often loses clarity and fidelity when compared to the original. If Microsoft is to be relevant in the future, they need to articulate a compelling and unique strategy and bend the world toward their vision of the future – based on how they innovate and execute. I just don’t think it is in their DNA.

  • Aannddyy

    That is a terrible picture of the Apple store

  • Kyler Finn

    Like, I mean, finally Microsoft has decided that location might actually have something to do with success. Course you also need to have stuff people actually want too. Doubtful that 5th avenue will save them from their lame decisions.

  • bondr006

    Apple folk are the most insecure people I know. I have and love both Apple and MS hardware. MacBook Air, iPad Retina Mini, iPhone 5, and Apple TV. Surface Pro 2, soon to get a Surface Pro 3, HP Envy Touchsmart 15″ Laptop. Both company’s make good hardware and software of which I use both on a regular basis. No reason for the disdain and disrespect of MS. They are here to stay, so you better just accept and deal with it.

    • JDSoCal

      Of course there is reason for disdain of Microsoft (especially if you are an MSFT stockholder). It is run by talentless dweebs with no sense of style. Ballmer said the iPhone and iPad would gain no meaningful market share. Now Microsoft has finally caved and is offering a version of Office for it!

      And the Microsoft stores are a pathetic ripoff of the Apple Store.

      Criticism of a company doesn’t mean someone is “insecure,” Dr. Freud.

    • RyanTV

      It really has nothing to do with disdain or whether Microsoft is “here to stay”. I’m pretty sure everyone knows that MS is here to stay – the article was merely pointing out that MS is, rather blatantly, copying Apple’s retail strategy but is failing at engaging customers enough to actually participate.

      I personally think that their Surface devices, particularly the Surface 3 are beautifully made, but Windows 8 drives me absolutely CRAZY to use. At first I thought it was just because I’d used the OS on a traditional desktop setup, but even in a touch environment, it is just not good. If it is unintuitive to use, I just don’t want the device in my life.

      And therein lies the main issue: You not only have to make beautiful devices, you have to make them fun and easy to use. This is coming from an IT professional of 12 years. If I’m frustrated using it, I can only imagine someone who has any trepidation towards technology trying to catch on.

      I have absolutely no hate for Microsoft at all – maybe a little frustration as I use their products every day, but I can find that for Apple or Nikon or BMW – whatever company that is entrenched in my life. The whole issue with Microsoft is they are trying to copy a strategy that has been overtly successful for Apple and it just isn’t a copy/paste thing that can win them customers.

      • Ulysses Grant

        Microsoft doesn’t have the cool factor. Its more people like Uncle Marty who will hang out at the MS store.

      • Merckel

        The Surface is “beautifully made?”

        Do you drive a Pontiac Aztek perchance?

      • RyanTV

        I have a BMW X3 and an Audi S4.

        Yes, the surface is a beautifully made product. The body is a bit on the thick side because of the full-sized USB port, but it is still well crafted. If you don’t agree you either 1) Have never actually held one or 2) are such a MS hater that you can’t see past your iPad.

        Note I never said the device was any good to actually use. The software completely detracts from everything else.

      • Merckel

        The aesthetics are not first tier, both for being thick and the cheap keyboard cover that fails at measuring up to a MacBook Air. I’ve handled and tried Surface, and my sense is that reviewers are bending over backward to find redeeming attributes. Like you, I believe the biggest failing is the compromise made with the product — it’s a subpar tablet and a subpar notebook.

        We can agree to disagree on the design, but I think it falls well short of a “beautifully made product.” Microsoft hasn’t made an attractive product since the first mouse in the 1980s.

    • You know who else was “here to stay?” AOL. And Netscape. And Sun Micro. And Compaq. And… oh heck, I could make a long list.

      • Don’t forget Blackberry

      • Yarrenbool

        My favourite “here to stay” of all time is CP/M. Everybody knew it was so entrenched that the newcomer, MS-DOS, would absolutely never replace it! Today, how many people even know what CP/M was?

      • 2oh1

        Funny you should say that. If I’m not mistaken, the Microsoft Store shown in the pictures above was a Gateway store in the late 90s.

      • RyanTV
    • Merckel

      Surface Pro? There ARE cheaper door stops you know…

      I’ve tried Surface, and it’s an underwhelming product. Used as a notebook, the screen is too small and the keyboard/touchpad sucks for real productivity work. A MacBook Air running Windows inside Parallels is a superior choice.

      You already have an iPad, why would you use a Surface as a tablet? Excel? That’s laughable: Spreadsheet creation on tablets is a joke.

      HP is aping Apple design and doing a poor job of it. You seem to have enough money to throw away, why not stay with quality gear instead of cheap knockoff crap?

  • 2oh1

    Those pictures don’t do a good job of showing how gorgeous the new Apple Store in Portland is. When Apple acquired the lot to tear down a former Saks and build an Apple Store that takes up one whole side of a city block, Microsoft gutted a former restaurant space a block away and moved in before Apple even started construction. The Apple Store is a work of art. It’s a block long with all glass sides and a very attractive slab roof on top of which vegetation grows (an eco roof). The glass walls show just how busy and vibrant the Apple Store is. I have to assume that in winter, when the sun sets so early in the afternoon, that Apple Store is going to look stunning. A look through the window at the Microsoft store shows how dead it usually is.

  • appstorechronicle

    Six blocks really isn’t that close in NYC

  • Kr00

    Yes, because nobody can resist lining up to buy a software license can they? That is 80% of their business. Selling licenses. MS have and always will be a dull and boring company. If it didn’t tie up the PC market years ago, they wouldn’t be relevant today.

  • Robby Lopez

    If only the common person knew what the Apple Retail employee has to go through to make that place what it is.

    • M_Mk3

      Who cares. Do you need to know what the architects had to go through to design the building? Do you care what the barista at Starbucks goes through to make your coffee, what about the UPS delivery guy? It’s a job like any other, it has its demands. Plenty of other career choices out there.

  • Lars Pallesen

    Microsoft’s “me too” retail strategy is misguided at its core. The thinking behind the MS retail stores seems to have been a simple case of “Apple has success with their Apple Stores, so we should have some of those too”. But the Apple Stores were a particular solution to a very specific problem Apple was facing a Decade ago; their products were hard to find in the regular big box retail stores, badly displayed, and the sales staff in those stores had a very poor knowledge and understanding of Macs in particular. So Apple decided they had to do it themselves. But that has never been the problem for Microsoft’s products. For one thing Microsoft is primarily a software company, and no matter which PC you choose it’s already got Windows installed on it. Windows PCs can literally be found everywhere, so why do you need a special Microsoft store to display or sell them? And everybody already knows what Microsoft Office is and what it does. Same can be said for X-Box. In short Microsoft’s retail stores is a solution to a non-existing problem, and the lack of consumer interest in the Microsoft stores reflect that. There’s just no particular reason why you should buy your Samsung laptop in the Microsoft store instead of in your local electronics store. “Come in and try a Windows PC” isn’t exactly a wildly exciting offer these days, is it?

    • Jeremiah_Nilsson

      I think you are spot on.
      Also, I think the BIG mistake MS does is that they rely on that people wants to do tedious BUSINESS on their machines. Come on… on their free time?
      Buy a surface beacuse of Office on it? It’s good for producing reports?
      Gasp. I already have a boring Dell at my job. Why buy into more work…

      If I buy a tablet or similar, I want it to mean joy, use, business, fun, magic, aha! and “wow, I can do that!”. An iPad can be used for anything from counting seahorses under water to stargazing…

      • Ryan Johnson

        THIS. Office on a device just doesn’t cut it, I am at my home, not my job.

  • herbaled

    That’s it!? What a nothing story … and I use the word “story”very loosely here. Also, besides not telling the story you hoped they would, the quality of the photos are terrible.