The Macalope Weekly: Magnificent desolation

It’s another case of analogies run amok as the Macalope looks at Microsoft’s retail strategy. Then there’s the intriguing case of how Windows 7 is like the lead character in an early ’90s Fox sitcom. (No, The Macalope is not saying Windows 7 is anything like “Herman’s Head.” What is wrong with you people?) And then it’s the most amazing Apple lawsuit ever! The Macalope can’t wait for the depositions on this one!

The retail space race

Say, kids, do you like forced analogies in your technology punditry? You do?!  Great! Because the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing got the Macalope thinking again about Microsoft’s retail strategy.

No, really. Please don’t leave!

It has been uncharitably said that the space race left nothing more than flags and footprints.  And the Macalope is kind of wondering if Microsoft really has a plan here beyond “MUST COMPETE WITH APPLE. CRUSH. KILL. DESTROY.” (That’s not hyperbole. They really talk like that.)

But this week there was at least some indication Microsoft might have a clue: they hired a guy who helped Apple find the right retail locations to help Microsoft do the same. We may laugh (long and hard until our sides ache from the effort), but there’s a perfectly good reason why Microsoft might locate stores near Apple Stores:  Apple Stores are located in good locations! You know, upscale malls with plenty of wealthy shoppers.

But who needs wealthy shoppers if you’re not selling anything? Is Microsoft going to sell anything, or is it just planting a flag in the mall?

Here’s what the company said back in February:

“The purpose of opening these stores is to create deeper engagement with consumers and continue to learn firsthand about what they want and how they buy.”

Are these stores just focus groups?  Are they going to be staffed by retail workers or by market-research analysts? Because I don’t expect there are a lot of mall shoppers out there who want to duck into the Microsoft store just to be studied like a lab rat. At least, not unless there’s a free massage in it for them.

Yes, Microsoft has a couple of its own hardware products to sell: the Zune and the Xbox. But it seems the driving motivation here is to promote the company’s bread and butter, the Windows operating system. Despite spending many of the lost summers of his youth behind a retail counter, the Macalope’s no retail expert, but it sure seems that simply showcasing Windows and not letting people buy it on actual hardware is an intensely stupid way to run a store.

If the company doesn’t partner with some hardware vendors and actually sell things in their stores, they’re going to be as empty as Tranquility Base.

See, this forced analogy just writes itself!

Hmm, maybe that’s why it’s called “forced.”

See, the Macalope is a victim here, too.

Windows 7, like Parker Lewis, can’t lose!

InfoWorld’s Randall C. Kennedy says Apple ‘tarnishing Windows 7? Fat chance!

Yeah! Microsoft’s already tarnished it with Vista! So there!

Tarnish. It’s one of those words that IT journalists like to use when a particular industry luminary gets “soiled” by bad news or a product release blunder.

It’s also a word used to describe the effect on metals that have lost their luster. Like The Macalope’s silver June 1993 Employee of the Month award from Radio Shack. (Where do you think he got his technology industry experience?)

Who does Randall link to who’s actually saying Apple might “tarnish” Windows 7? Rob Enderle.

Jeez, it’s like a silly pundit perpetual-motion machine. And Randall doesn’t even paraphrase Enderle faithfully!

Some pundits are arguing that yes they can — that Apple might seize up to 30 percent of the market as a result of all of the bad press surrounding Vista’s failure and now the rocky Windows 7 upgrade path faced by XP users.

Nooooo, what Rob said was:

Apple will likely never get more than 30 percent of the market, but the percentage it does get will likely be the most profitable in the segment.

Rob says Apple will never get more than 30 percent of the market ever. He doesn’t say “Apple’s program to tarnish Windows 7 may grant it up to 30 percent of the market!”

Curse you, Randall Kennedy. Curse you for forcing the Macalope to defend the words of Rob Enderle! (Although Randall does call Enderle a quack. At least we both agree on that. But that’s pretty much it.)

Microsoft will be pulling out all the stops with this one, and the resulting tidal wave of Windows 7 products and services will drown out the posturing and tired rhetoric of the Apple camp.

Ah, the vaunted Microsoft behemoth. It’s too big! You can’t beat it!

Yes, the Macalope remembers when silly pundits breathlessly told us that because Microsoft could afford to literally give everyone in the world a Zune, the iPod was DOOOOMED!  Apple would be sorry it ever thought to get into the digital music player business!  The smackdown would be of epic proportions!

Of course, this won’t stop them from trying. I can easily see Apple seeking to tarnish (there’s that word again)…

THAT’S BECAUSE YOU KEEP USING IT.

…Windows 7 by pointing out its Vista heritage — sort of a “lift the hood and see the Vista underpinnings” type of a play.

You mean like when Apple’s Bertrand Serlet did this very thing at WWDC a few months back? Randall, that’s not foresight, it’s a rear-view mirror.

All this talk about Apple “tarnishing” (ZOMG, THERE IT IS AGAIN BUT IN VERB FORM!!!) is just projection.  The real party who tarnished Windows’ reputation is Microsoft. 60 percent of businesses currently say they’re going to give Windows 7 a pass.  That’s not Apple’s fault.  That’s Microsoft’s.

My advice to Mac enthusiasts: Enjoy your day in the sun while you can. Because the eclipse is coming … and it’s shaped like a giant Windows logo.

In the current environment, any time Windows users are forced into an upgrade decision that requires them to buy new hardware, the overall winner is going to be Apple.

Now, Enderle’s probably correct in that Apple’s never going to peel away a huge percentage of the market share… It’s just going to peel away the premium part of the market.

Some things do grow in the shade.

Every time I try to switch they pull me back in!

The Macalope would be remiss in not pointing out the most serious of charges against Apple. Never let it be said that he writes about the company with uneven hooves! Yes, we love the products it produces, but sometimes we know it doesn’t do right.  The App Store is arcane and unfair. Apple shipped iPods with viruses and then joked about them. The company is secretive and manipulative. It conspires with the Mafia to send us disturbing messages through iPods.

Wait, what?

[Gregory] McKenna alleges that Apple conspired with the Italian Mafia to affix special receivers to an iPod shuffle he purchased on eBay and an iPod mini purchased in an Apple Store. These receivers were allegedly used by the Mafia to transmit threatening messages to the iPods.

Hmm.

You know, that’s possible, but it doesn’t really sound like Apple’s style.  The Italian Mafia’s totally your grandpa's bad guy. Apple’s more likely to conspire with someone trendier, like maybe a Japanese street bike gang.

Not that they are.

As far as the Macalope knows.

He’s totally not saying that.

Um…

Oh, God, please don’t tell anyone you heard that here.

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