Does employee training at Microsoft now just consist of watching CEO Steve Ballmer flipping his shit on loop? After attending the opening of the company’s new store in Times Square, we can’t help but wonder.
Microsoft is opening 34 temporary stores in preparation for the holidays, and this was the first. The popup was well-executed, but it seemed a little small for Times Square’s massive foot traffic. Inside we found a crowd heavy on photographers, store staffers and dudes in sharp suits–as well as lots of very excited people buying Surface tablets. (Not that they could walk out with them. Nothing could leave the premises until midnight, so early buyers had to come back.)
The interior felt like a weird riff on an Apple Store, as though the designers had started with the same bare-bones IKEA-chic aesthetic then added back giant Surface banners and faux stained-oak tables.
But the most striking thing about the unveiling was just how fucking psyched Microsoft employees seem to be about these products and this store and life in general.
“Hello TIMES SQUARE!” Malinda, the manager of “this beautiful Microsoft store” greeted us from a small stage in front of the still-covered storefront, channeling the pep of an SEC cheerleader and demonstrating the lung capacity of a drill sergeant. She introduced Microsoft COO Kevin Turner, who stepped to the stage and began shouting in the same register, sounding uncannily like his boss: “Hello NEW YORK!”
“This is an epic moment,” he added. “It’s been a monumentous day for us, it’s one that we’re very very excited to be able to bring you the first place in the country where we’re going to sell Windows 8 and Surface tonight.” He paused for woo-hoos from Malinda and her T-shirt-clad squadron.
Friday, he said, Microsoft would be opening more stores. “But tonight, at 10 o’clock, we’re going to be opening up this store, the first in the country.” “Yes we are!!” seconded Malinda, can-I-get-a-witness-style.
If there’s anything that was epic, it was the amount of money Microsoft must’ve spent on the retail pageantry. Everywhere we looked, we saw ads. It wasn’t quite a full Times Square takeover–even Microsoft doesn’t have the resources to buy out every inch of Times Square, we suppose–but you couldn’t turn your head without spotting the Surface on another enormous screen. Stretching out to either side of the store were signs touting Windows 8 on Acer, on HP, on Sony, like Stark bannermen massing for war.
Finally, after a New Year’s Eve-style countdown (“from 8, as in Windows 8!”) the sheet covering the exterior came down, revealing a cheerful exterior covered in Windows logos and a giant Surface. Inside, store staffers were jumping up and down to the Flo Rida song “Good Feeling.”
It was only surrounded by the Microsoft logo that we noticed the event-appropriate lyric, “No trick plays, I’m Bill Gates, Take a genius to understand me.”