My disgraceful Microsoft Surface experience at Best Buy

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Picture of Windows 8 Devices as you enter  Best Buy

 Microsoft made a big deal announcing the expanded distribution of the surface tablet last week due to “an exciting public reaction” of the device. With that in mind, any reasonable person would have expected a coordinated and cohesive strategy in presentation and sale of these devices at the 3rd party stores. The reality however was far more shocking and not in a good way!

I had stopped by a local Staples last week after the aforementioned announcement and the reps at store then had no idea when the products would be available. They asked me to check in later in the week. I gave it a pass since it was fresh news.

Over the weekend, Richard Hays detailed the retail experiences on his website windowsobserver.com here, here and here. Then, a reader on the verge forums detailed his surface experience at Best Buy which mirrored mine.

Yesterday, the 17th of December, I walk into Best Buy  and I’m greeted by the standard Windows 8 display pictured above which seems to be common in all the stores. A sales rep the directs me to the computer section where the single device( I should say) is located. As I make my way through the aisles, my mind is filled with  great visions of finally seeing and touching  this premium device. But alas! I had expected too much. Here is what I first saw when I got to the destination.

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The tablet was off (I had to turn it on) and hard to distinguish from the Asus vivo Tab  RT beside it to the left and of all things, a working iPad 2 to the right! here is a picture

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Look closely at the bottom on the price tags and tell me if casual buyer looking for value would go for the $499 Surface? At $399, the iPad 2 clearly looks like a better value even though we know that the Surface has its strengths that surpass the iOS device.

Next I tried to check apps on the surface because I’ve read reviews and comments that some of the native apps especially mail are slow. Here is what I got

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how about pictures?

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IE10 had great reviews so lets check out how it performs shall we?

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Google for the homepage?

The tablet had nothing setup which in essence rendered it useless.

What about that cool keyboard that clicks onto the devices?

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Well, the helpful stockers at Best Buy shoved them under the table in such a way that you could not tell what they were. The device itself was not connected to either keyboard.

And now for the kicker, the description of the device.

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It  was clearly a photocopied piece of paper hastily inserted in the plastic display casing in that it was sitting sideways! (sorry about the image quality, I was using a cheap phone)

By now, I’m livid and I locate a very unhelpful lady with a clipboard to inquire for some more information about the Surface. I ask her why the device is not setup like the other PCs on display with demo software so that I can really test it out. She looks at me funny and then tells me it’s all the same so it doesn’t matter. I insist that I would like to test the software on the device itself not on a different PC. Exasperated by my questions, she gives herself an out by saying she’ll get me one of the guys who is a Microsoft specialist to help me. I notice that she never asks to write my name on her handy clipboard.

By now I’m quite angry but I choose not to act a fool. I walk to the Apple display and take a few pictures on how the competition has their wares presented,

Here is the Mac line of Products

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And now the iPad mini

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The iPod touch

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You notice how clean and professional looking they are. Additionally, they do not share any shelf space with their competitors.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab has its own display

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Surprisingly, so does the Amazon Kindle line of products

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Finally last but not least, Google had their own distinct display for their Chrome books. Not only that, they had an official rep wearing a Google logo T-shirt to help any prospective customers with their questions.

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It could be easy to say that it is all Best Buy’s fault. I disagree and put the whole blame on Microsoft’s sales and marketing divisions.

Their competitors have found a way to get their products professionally displayed on 3rd party stores and so should Microsoft. No excuses.

This reminds me of the Windows Phone 7 launch two years ago when lack of product, terrible displays and apathetic sales reps hindered the adoption of the new OS. The same problems are still plague the Surface tablet and to an extent Windows Phone 8.

I dare Microsoft executives from CEO Steve Ballmer,  Chief Financial Marketing Officer Tami Reller, Microsoft  Surface general Manager Panos Panay and corporate vice president at Microsoft in charge of  Retail Sales and Marketing Steve Schueler among others, to go undercover boss at some of these 3rd party retail outlets and then make a statement if they find the experience acceptable. If they do, they then clearly deserve to lose the battle in the “post-PC” world.

I left the store about an hour later disappointed to say the least and never speaking to the so called “Microsoft specialist.” I wondered, if I, somebody with tech know-how and likes Microsoft’s products had such a terrible experience, what about the average consumer?

The consumer and sales and marketing divisions at Redmond need an immediately overhaul or else be fired and new blood put in. The company has great products. They just need someone who can present and sell them in a professional and desirable way to the end consumer.

If its not yet clear, I love Microsoft products I would like see them to flourish in the marketplace by the company being more actively engaged in monitoring and shaping how their ecosystem is presented to the end consumer at the retail level.

Let us know of your experiences trying out or purchasing the Surface tablet since the expansion to 3rd party retail stores this week.

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