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!
- Take a tour of Microsoft’s first store in Canada (theglobeandmail.com)