Microsoft’s opened the US version of the new online Microsoft Store yesterday and given some of the effusive commentary which greeted the blogged announcement from Microsoft’s Trevin Chow, one would think that Microsoft did not already have an online store called Windows Marketplace which offers Microsoft and third party hardware and software including downloads of some software purchases. Paul Thurrott puts it rather crisply:
And the only big difference I can see between that site and the new Microsoft Store is that the latter only sells Microsoft software and hardware, while the former also offers third party products. So why all the hoo-hah over Microsoft’s new store? Because most of the people who write blogs and news articles in this industry have no understanding of the topic they’re covering. Yeah, I said it. Even Microsoft got it wrong: In a posting to the Windows Experience Blog announcing the store, a Microsoft employee described the new storefront as "the first online store where you can purchase Microsoft products straight from the source." Which is curious, because I purchased Microsoft AutoCollage from the Windows Marketplace about two weeks earlier.
I’ve been a Marketplace customer myself so I was also a bit puzzled by the hoopla and more so by Microsoft’s lack of explanation. That came later today via Dawn Kawamoto at CNET:
"With the launch of the Microsoft Store, Windows Marketplace will shut down as an e-commerce site. Marketplace will transition from an e-commerce and referral site to a Web page that will refer customers to sites such as Microsoft Store, Windows Vista Compatibility Center, and other appropriate destinations," a Microsoft spokesman stated.
So the big news is actually that Microsoft is ending its experiment in selling third party items in an online store in favor of a Microsoft only effort. Just don’t look for any bargains though, since the formal announcement says all items will be listed at the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) which is hardly competitive in the online retail world.
It took them a while, but Microsoft’s adCenter will soon generally support (albeit in beta) US sales of contextual ads on Microsoft content pages as well as search results according to David Jakubowski, General Manager, adCenter:
The week is ending on a very odd note, as witness my two prior posts from today, but here are some more bizarre Microsoft happenings from this week:
The Odd Case of the Ubuntu Download. Ubuntu Linux mysteriously appeared on Windows Marketplace where it became a very popular download, then less mysteriously it disappeared.
The Expensive Case of the Grand Theft Auto IV Add-ons. Take Two Interactive’s CFO let slip in an earnings conference call that someone was paying an extravagant $50 million fee for “episodic” content in the Xbox 360 version of the upcoming GTA IV and then stonewalled on providing details. Microsoft finally confessed and expressed the hope that fees for the downloadable add-ons would recoup at least part of the expense.
The Strange Case of the Vanishing Vista Virtualization License. Microsoft primed the press for an announcement this week on relaxing the arbitrary licensing restrictions on running Vista in a virtual machine and then canceled the whole thing at the last minute. Microsoft isn’t talking and theories abound, but the suspicion is that while permitting the lower cost versions of Vista to run in VMs would help Windows developers, Microsoft balked at helping non-Windows users (i.e. Linux or Macintosh) who would also benefit.
The overwhelming majority of copies of Vista will be purchased preinstalled on new PCs, but that fact of life doesn’t keep hope from springing up on Wall Street or in Redmond. The latest illustration came late last night as Microsoft Unveiled New Ways for Consumers to Get Windows Vista:
Microsoft Corp. today detailed three new methods for customers looking to buy, upgrade or license multiple copies of Windows Vista™, the new operating system that will be available worldwide on Jan. 30. Windows Anytime Upgrade, Windows Vista Family Discount and Windows Marketplace will provide customers with greater flexibility in obtaining the new operating system and will ensure they have the edition of Windows Vista that matches their needs.
Taking them in a slightly different order:
Windows Anytime Upgrade
The general outline of Windows Anytime Upgrade has been known for sometime, but Microsoft confirmed that the PC vendors will act as middlemen in the upgrade purchase and will presumably get a cut as well as handle any service calls. The retail pricing is generally much the same as the delta in prices for retail boxed copies, which is hardly a bargain, but the Home Basic to Home Premium upgrade for $79 instead of $40 seems like an outrageous assault on the home user’s pocketbook. (The Business to Ultimate upgrade is pricey too – $139 instead of $100). It’s hard to figure if this is an incentive for OEMs to ship Premium preinstalled or part of the famous Vista upsell, but as I have observed before, the consumer who brings his shiny new PC home and finds out that he has to get out his credit card to get the glitzy Vista user interface isn’t going to be a happy camper.
Microsoft launched their spiffed up Windows Marketplace in August, but it’s mostly been a venue for a little hardware and some games and smaller applications with the novelty that the latter were downloadable using their Digital Locker technology. Now however, they will be offering upgrade editions of Vista and full copies of Office 2007. I suspect that offering Vista is a waste of time and that offering Office upgrades might be a better plan, but there’s nothing wrong with digital delivery if you can persuade the customers of that fact.
Windows Vista Family Discount
Talk about a waste of time. If you are one of the odd ducks (in the US and Canada) who wants to ante up for a full price retail (complete or upgrade) copy of Vista Ultimate before June 30, you can also get two additional licenses of Vista Home Premium for other PCs in the home for $49.99 each. The price isn’t bad, but the number of folks with 3 fully Vista capable machines sitting about the house and a burning desire to upgrade has got to be limited to the fanboy contingent.