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Of Windows Phone 8 and Blue T-Shirts

I buy all my phones at my local AT&T store. Since I live in the sticks, the store serves as a pretty good test case for how well Microsoft is pushing its products. This includes perhaps the most important factor in moving new, non-iPhone or -Android phones: educating salespeople to understand how to differentiate Windows Phone 8 from the competition, and interest consumers into at least considering the platform.

If, for example, Windows Phone 8 has very few models available, or they're tucked away in back of the store, that's a sure sign to potential buyers that it's not a choice they need to take seriously. That's what happened, in fact, with Windows Phone 7 in my local store. So I was interested to see what was happening with Windows Phone 8 when I went in last week -- coincidentally, the kickoff of the crucial holiday shopping period.

When I went in, the first thing I saw was a salesman I've bought a number of phones from. He was wearing a light blue Windows Phone 8 t-shirt, sporting the new Windows logo. That was my first signal that this is a serious push by Redmond. After all, when a potential customer sees that, curiosity is naturally piqued. I'd imagine that many folks have no idea that Microsoft even makes a Windows smartphone. And that gets the conversation rolling.

There was also a strong lineup of Windows Phone 8 devices, at the front of the store -- in other words, right where folks will be browsing. They were next to a display of Android phones, showing in stark contrast the differing UIs. Again, more reasons for consumers to try them out or ask questions of the sales staff.

My salesman knew his stuff when questioned, too. He knew Windows Phone 8's strengths and weaknesses compared to both Android and the iPhone. He presented Windows Phone as a real alternative to the Big Dogs, not as some cur unworthy of mention.

I asked him how Windows Phone is selling in his store. He didn't have specific numbers, but said it's been selling well. Customers are interested, he said, and have been checking it out, even the ones who aren't buying.

Of course, a one-store anecdote isn't representative of how things are going nationwide. But if my experience is being replicated in enough other places, Microsoft might just have something here.

Posted by Keith Ward on 11/27/2012

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