Microsoft is keeping quiet on the rumors currently rocketing around the blogosphere that it’s recruiting Apple Store employees to stock its own retail outlets, due to open this autumn in a strip mall near you.
“Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation,” came the expected response from Redmond, when I asked.
The rumors apparently started over at The Loop, with Jim Dalrymple writing, “People that have spoken to The Loop on condition of anonymity confirm that Microsoft has contacted a number of Apple’s retail store managers to work in their stores.”
The blog entry continues, “In addition to ‘significant raises,’ the managers have also been offered moving expenses in some cases.”
If true, it’s not exactly a surprising move. Say you’re launching a high-profile set of retail storefronts that focus on a very particular consumer segment. You want to fill those establishments with employees who have the right sort of institutional knowledge to run things effectively. Apple’s employees have shown demonstrable success in running its stores, so it’s natural that Microsoft would want to poach at least a few to run its own version.
This isn’t the first time that Microsoft’s headed to the Apple store for its retail personnel. It hired George Blankenship, a former Gap executive who helped launch Apple’s retail arm back in the ancient days of 2001. Nor is Microsoft restricting itself to people; early concept designs for the store, leaked to Gizmodo, included an Answers or Guru Bar very familiar-looking to anyone who’s visited Apple’s Genius Bar.
Again, this latest rumor just reconfirms that Microsoft was serious at the July Worldwide Partner Conference, in New Orleans, when it said it would go on the offensive and “take some of these hard market-share opportunities head-on.” In that spirit, Redmond plans on opening at least a few of the retail outlets close to Apple stores.
This is how competition works. Companies lure employees from their rivals, as well as study what’s working in their ecosystems and adapt accordingly. The big questions are whether Microsoft’s moves will make its retail stores a success, and how Steve Jobs and the people at Apple will respond. What do you think?
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