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Microsoft Store Grand Opening Weekend

ImageThis week-end’s grand opening of the Microsoft Store in Square One (Mississauga, Ontario) has been a truly amazing time.  Saturday was busy all day – people lined up to buy Microsoft Surface devices, Xbox One, games, software, accessories, and some simply came to get concert tickets.  Whatever the reason, there were hundreds of people here from morning until night.

I arrived at 8:15 – well over two hours before the scheduled opening.  I was surprised to see there were hundreds of people lined up in three different lines – people who specifically wanted concert tickets (they were giving away tickets to see Weezer Sunday at the Powerade Centre in Brampton), people who wanted to buy the Surface Pro (the door crasher special was a Surface Pro 128 for $399), and people who just wanted to come in to see the store.  Additionally there was a fourth ‘V.I.P. Area’ for partners, MVPs, and guests from the four charities that were invited to take part in the opening festivities.

Although there was music, a Twitter Wall, and a couple of Xbox One stations set up, there was not a lot to see before 11:00.  The staff came out a few times to give out prizes ranging from portable speakers to Xbox prizes and even a couple of Weezer-autographed guitars.  However aside from that the only thing we were able to look at was the Microsoft curtain – the entire store was blocked off by a white curtain… and from time to time we would hear some pretty exciting stuff from behind that…

At 11:00am the staff came out.  Steven Grebenc is the store manager, and he was the first to speak.  After that Claudia Ferris, the vice president of Marketing & Operations of Microsoft Canada, spoke for a few minutes.  She and Steven gave away over a million dollars in software donations to four charities, including Community Living Mississauga and Girl Guides of Canada.

Although the local Member of Parliament made an appearance, the real Belle of the Ball was Hazel McCallion, the 94 year old mayor of Mississauga.  She was as energetic and engaging as any speaker I’ve heard, welcoming the Microsoft Store into her city and congratulating Microsoft on being such a long-standing corporate citizen of her city.  She was invited to cut the ribbon officially opening the store, and when she did the curtain was dropped, and dozens of Microsoft Store employees were waiting behind it cheering, dancing, and welcome everyone in.  They welcomed and high-fived everyone who came in, and really made everyone feel welcome.

Over a thousand people were lined up to buy the Surface Pro, and that line did not abate right into the evening.  At closing time there were still dozens of people in the store, looking around, asking questions, and buying products of every shape and size.

Although the tablets and laptops were the big sellers, there was a lot of curiosity around the 3D printer, a desktop device selling for $2,199.  It was busy making tchotchkes of all sorts over the week-end, including models of airplanes and rocket ships, hearts, key-chains, and more.

Although Alec usually works out of the Yorkdale Mall store he was on hand all week-end drawing caricatures on his Surface Pro.  He does great work, and if you find yourself in one of the stores see if he is around to draw yours!

Of course every Microsoft Store has a theatre, and that space in Square One is managed by Justine.  At noon she handed me the mic, and I was the announcer/emcee for the day announcing several Microsoft MVPs speaking on all sorts of topics, as well as community events such as the gaming session with We Got Game.

A great time was had by all, and if you have never been to a Microsoft Store opening week-end you really should try to get to one (there is one coming up in Calgary in the next few months).  However even if you are not able to get to an opening, you should drop into one of the stores because they really are great places to see and experience new technologies, try out devices, and learn from experts – whether as one-on-one or in the theatre as a member of the audience.

The tech is great, the deals are amazing, and the staff are just incredible.  Come on down and see what I mean!

Microsoft Store #84 (Square One!)

What a day… I arrived at Square One reasonably early this morning expecting to be one of the first people in line to get into the new Microsoft Store.  I wasn’t even in the first 200!  Fortunately I had registered as an MVP and was ushered into the VIP section.

This is not my first Microsoft Store opening.  I was at the opening of the Yorkdale store in 2012, and it was amazing.  I suspect that today’s opening however shattered any records.  There were well over 1,500 people waiting when Mayor Hazel McCallion cut the ribbon shortly after 11:00am.

The ongoing flow of traffic lasted all day – at 4:30 there were still hundreds of people lined up to buy a Surface Pro 128 for $399.  While I do not know how many they sold, I am sure it was well over a thousand.

As was the case at Yorkdale the CSM handed me the microphone to emcee the events at the theatre, and I got to announce a few fellow MVPs, a gaming convention brought in by We Got Game, and even a world renowned Call of Duty player who goes by a name that I can only remember as Goom Jar (I will confirm that later).

As I have been busy all day I have not had time to blog, but I promise to sit down tomorrow or Monday and post the pictures I took… if you follow me on Titter (@MGarvis) you would have seen some of them already.

Congratulations to the crew here for a great event, and I invite you down to the store to see what they have… a lot of great stuff, and a lot of great people!

A Tour of the Surface Pro with Tom’s Hardware

On the day that Microsoft released the Surface Pro I sat down with Alex Davies from Tom’s Hardware (www.tomshardware.com) and gave him a little tour of the device.  He recorded it and that recording went live on Monday.  Check it out and let me know what you think! –MDG

http://www.tomshardware.com/news/Microsoft-Surface-Pro-Hands-on-Demo,21030.html

Microsoft Surface with Windows 8 Pro: It’s Here!

For most of the months of October through December, while I was on tour talking about Windows 8, the new Office 2013 & Office 365, and Windows Server 2012 the most common question I heard was not about any of these products… it was something like ‘So where’s your Surface? Why don’t you have a Surface? When will you have a Surface?’ It was grinding… not because I didn’t want one… I did, and badly.  However I knew that if I bought myself a Surface with Windows RT in November my wife would never let me go back in February to buy myself a Surface with Windows Pro.  So I waited… patiently.

Of course, as a Virtual Evangelist for Microsoft Canada there was speculation that they would give me one… but that didn’t happen.  In December I watched with envy as all of my friends and colleagues got theirs – every Microsoft employee got one, but alas, I am a contractor so I didn’t.

Earlier at the beginning of summer I had promised my son that he could have one when they came out, and so in November I asked him if he wanted the RT version, or if he wanted to wait for the Pro version.  Of course he opted for the RT version, and so he got one as a late middle-school graduation present.  I took my wife with me to buy his device, and she was so enamoured with it that we bought two that day – hers being an early Christmas present.  Still and all, I could look, but unless they needed technical support I could not touch.

And then a few weeks ago the general availability date was announced: February 9th.

I called my main contact at the Microsoft Store in Yorkdale Mall (Toronto) and confirmed that they would be going on sale on that day.  I asked if he could put one aside for me, and his response was ‘yes… but I can only hold it until the end of the day on the 9th so make sure you come that day!’  I was willing to do him one better… since the shipment was obviously arriving well in advance of that day, why not simply let me come pick it up a few days early and we’ll keep it between us?  ‘Not a chance… not even one minute before the 9th!’ (And of course no, they were not planning a midnight event, so I would have to wait until morning!)

Then I had an idea. ‘Friend, what if I were to come in early the morning of February 9th, buy the very first Surface sold in Canada, and record it for my blog in the store before you even open?’  He thought that was not only doable, but was a great idea.  I put it in my calendar, and remembered to confirm with him on the 8th to make sure he hadn’t forgotten me… which I feel bad about because he never would!

Mother Nature decided to test Mitch…

February 8th, for those of you who were not paying attention, recorded the largest single-day snowfall in southern Ontario in nearly a decade.  Everyone on every media from Television to Twitter was saying that if you didn’t have to go out… don’t.  The road crews would be out in full force, but it would likely take them throughout the weekend to clear the minor arteries and possibly into next week for crescents, circles, and such (in one of which I happen to live).  Knowing that I needed to drive out the following morning I bribed my teenaged son to shovel the driveway in the early evening.  He did enough to make sure that I would be able to get my car out.

Of course, what are the chances that the tiny little circle, an off-shoot of a crescent off a tertiary road in Oakville, was going to be ploughed in time?  Fortunately Mayor Rob Burton follows me on Twitter and knew that I was planning to head out this morning, and made sure that our little ‘Griffith Place’ was cleared.  Okay, he did no such thing, but HUGE kudos to the road crews of Oakville, Ontario that cleared the street late last night! 

At 6:15 on Saturday morning I headed out; I brushed 35 centimetres of heavy snow off my car and headed out, all the while listening to the reports on the radio of accidents along the way (I witnessed three of them and passed seven others on the 403 and 401).  I was not to be stopped!  I drove the treacherous highways ‘low and slow’ as I was taught for these conditions, and as I will teach my son next year.  It took me nearly an hour to get there and park, but I did so safely.

Almost there…

I was surprised that I got to the store at 7:15am, and there were already people waiting in both lines (one line for people with the ‘golden ticket’ and one for people without)!  I got my gear set up in the ‘theatre’ area.  I set up my video camera on my tripod, only to realize that the battery was dead.  No problem, I had plenty of time to go, so I plugged it in and let it charge.  I set up my Surface with Windows RT (ironic that after all that waiting a colleague at Microsoft actually did get me one!) and several of the available accessories on the table where I would shoot.  All I needed now was the Surface Pro…

At 8:15 Friend brought out two devices – one for me, and one for another VIP customer named Mike who already has a Surface with Windows RT, but really wanted the Pro and was glad to be getting it this morning before he heads off to Europe.  Friend ran my credit card through, and once the POS system told him the sale was approved he e-mailed me my invoice and I was off to the races.

The following videos were filmed in the Microsoft Store Theatre in Yorkdale Mall, Toronto.  I want to thank Alison (the store manager), Friend (who knows who he is, and Emily (who is the Community Development Specialist, and therefor in charge of the theatre area and all of the presentations and parties held there.  They were filmed on February 9th, 2013 between 8:30 and 9:00 in the morning.  The only edits that were done to the video were for the sake of time and flow.  All opinions, mistakes, errors, and omissions are mine and mine alone, and I have made no effort to alter the video to hide them.

Opening the FIRST Surface Pro sold in Canada!
Turning on and setting up my Surface Pro.

The Microsoft Store for Business… Ask Caden!

The Microsoft Store in Toronto’s Yorkdale Mall is the hottest address for technology in the Greater Toronto Area.  People have been coming from all over to see what’s new, ranging from Windows 8 laptops, all-in-ones, Windows Phone 8 devices, and especially the new Microsoft Surface tablet, the hottest device on the market today.

Of course the store is a retail outlet, and as such is designed around the consumer.  To get a machine with the Microsoft Signature experience there is no other place to go.

So where do you go if you are a business owner, a consultant, a reseller who wants to buy these exclusive optimized devices for your company or customers?  Simple… ask for Caden!

Caden Forbes is the Business Development Specialist for the Microsoft Store in Toronto, and as such it is his job to connect with and sell into businesses.  He is, in essence, the B2B rep for the store.  That means that if you want to buy Surfaces, Windows Phones, or anything else for your business Caden is the man to see… and you can tell in the first seconds of your conversation that he loves his job, is great at it, and is easy to do business with.

It is often hard to find a man who knows his stuff, can communicate his message effectively, and is easy to deal with.  He almost always has a smile on his face and in his heart.  He has years of experience as a consultant that make him singularly suited as the best man for the job.

The entire staff at the Microsoft Store is second to none… they have been chosen well, trained thoroughly, and without a doubt work better as a team than any retail group I have ever met.  Like every great team they all serve their role; Caden may look like a linebacker but when you speak to him you will soon realize that he Is the business-to-business running back; when a member of the team realizes that a customer is asking business-related questions they will hand off to Caden, and Caden runs with it.  I expect him to win whatever the retail equivalent of the Heisman Trophy this year because he is absolutely one of the most effective players on the field.

If you haven’t been there already you should go down to the store and speak to one of the Product Advisors and, if you are a business owner, make sure they hand you off to Caden.

The Microsoft Store: The place to be this week-end

WP_000870If you are in or around the Greater Toronto Area this week-end then there is no better place to be than the Microsoft Store in Yorkdale Mall.

The first international store and the largest in the chain, the opening of Microsoft’s newest retail store can only be descried as a huge success, with literally hundreds of people lined up hours in advance to get their first glimpse of the retail marvel.

Microsoft Canada president Max Long was joined by Tami Reller, Corporate Vice President and CFO of Microsoft’s Windows Division were on hand to open the store with a crowd of 700 onlookers.  They did not only welcome the crowd and talk about the store, they also announced that Microsoft Canada was making a new donation of $1.500,000 to local charities – presented by store manager Alison Evans.

When the curtain dropped the entire staff was leading the cheers, and then lined up to form a passageway into the store where they high-fived the first visitors.  By the time this VIP got in the door (in the first minute) the store was already bustling with activity, a level that has hardly abated at all thus far.

I spoke to a lot of people lined up and they were all here for different reasons – deals on new hardware, Xbox and laptops and accessories… but the two things that drew the most people were the Microsoft Surface and the new Windows Phone 8 devices.

While the Surface has been available since the launch of Windows 8 on October 26th, the only place you were able to see it in Toronto was at the pop-up retail kiosk in the Eaton Centre.  Now that the full retail store is open there are dozens of Surfaces everywhere, as well as Sony, Acer, Asus, Dell Samsung devices ranging in size from 9" ultrabooks and tablets to 27" all-in-one machines.

The greatest thing about the store in my opinion is that the display machines are all available for visitors to try out — as I write this article from a handy Sony Vaio T, complete with multi-touch sreen and reasonably priced at $899.  They are all internet-connected, and nobody is telling visitors not to touch, try, and in the Xbox corner play.  It is a great hands-on experience, and the store associates are as welcoming and helpful as I have ever seen.

In the Windows Phone corner there are representatives not only from a couple of the local carriers but also from the manufacturers as well.  Although the platform released October 26th, this is the first time I have even seen the devices outside the Microsoft offices.

Everywhere you look people of all ages and knowledge levels are asking questions, learning, and trying out great devices.  Of course every PC is running Windows 8, so it is a great opportunity for people to get their first glimpse of Microsoft’s flagship product, barely three weeks old.

In the back of the store there is an area called the theatre where during the regular hours people can play on the Xbox connected to an incredible 103" touch screen.  This afternoon (and tomorrow and Sunday) the Microsoft MVPs are taking over – we will be presenting sessions every hour on topic including Windows 8, Office 2013, Office 365, Xbox, and of course Windows Phone 8.  I have several sessions over the course of the week-end, but am more interested to sit in and listen to what my fellow enthusiasts have to say (I usually know what I am going to say so I am seldom surprised).

It is definitely the place to be this week-end.  Even though the initial ‘line up and wait’ is over, the store has been consistently hopping since it opened, with no signs of slowing down.  I spoke with several members of the management team who are all pleased by the turnout.  Alison Evans, the store manager, told me she is ‘ecstatic about the turnout.’

To make things even hotter, there will be an exclusive concert with the band Train tomorrow evening, and store staff are handing out wristband passes to the lucky few; and this afternoon The Great One – Number 99 himself – Wayne Gretzky will be in the store, and people will be lined up to meet him, get autographs, and get the chance to play Kinect games with him!

So if you haven’t come down yet what is stopping you?  Trust me, you will not be disappointed… your only regret will be if you do NOT come down!

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