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Microsoft Starts Global Rollout of Retail Consumer Web Sites

Microsoft Corp. is now selling its wares directly to consumers.

Microsoft Corp. is now selling its wares directly to consumers.

This week, the company launched the Microsoft Store -- a Web site where consumers can purchase Vista, Office, Microsoft Works and the new Web design product Expression directly from Microsoft -- in the U.K. and Germany.

Currently, the software purchased through the sites are delivered via electronic download, although the company said it expects to offer "full packaged products" by the end of 2008.

Previously, all direct sales have gone through Microsoft's retail channel and other partners.

"The Microsoft Store brings together a wide range of consumer products for the first time, allowing customers to explore and purchase products directly from Microsoft through a single, online experience," commented Alex Reeve, business group director at Microsoft U.K., in an e-mailed statement. "The launch in the U.K. and Germany represent the first step in a global rollout."

According to Reeve, more stores will roll out this year and next, but the company would not say when a U.S. Microsoft Store is scheduled to debut. "We are currently unable to commit to an exact timeline as the platform will be based on both consumer experience and feedback, with the end experience being our ultimate priority," Reeve said.

In its press release announcing the new sites, Microsoft appeared to also be addressing partner concerns, saying that the sites are a complement to the company's "existing, valued, sales channel" and that it supports Microsoft's "existing retail partnerships with full product information."

"Our goal is to offer a seamless, intuitive service to consumers who want to obtain our software products from Microsoft," Reeve said in a statement in the press release. "However, Microsoft remains absolutely committed to its investment in the retail partner channel."

In response to a question about whether partners should be concerned about the new sites, Reeve repeated that Microsoft is committed to its retail partners, adding: "The Microsoft Store is the first time all of Microsoft's software products have been available in one place, offering the end user all the information required to make an informed buying decision, either from Microsoft directly or from a licensed retail partner."

He continued, "We will address the demand from customers who want to purchase directly from Microsoft. Microsoft already offers Office products direct through a number of ESD channels (pre-installed/downloadable trial conversion, Office Ready PC) with little impact on the channel."

About the Author

Becky Nagel is the vice president of Web & Digital Strategy for 1105's Converge360 Group, where she oversees the front-end Web team and deals with all aspects of digital strategy. She also serves as executive editor of the group's media Web sites, and you'll even find her byline on PureAI.com, the group's newest site for enterprise developers working with AI. She recently gave a talk at a leading technical publishers conference about how changes in Web technology may impact publishers' bottom lines. Follow her on twitter @beckynagel.

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