Microsoft to open five more retail stores by summer

Will morph one 'pop-up' into permanent outlet

Microsoft today announced that it would open five new retail stores by summer, including one it's transmuting from a "pop-up" outlet created last year to drive holiday sales.

The new stores will be in Honolulu (Ala Moana Center); Natick, Mass. (Natick Mall); Portland, Ore. (Pioneer Place); Schaumburg, Ill. (Woodfield Mall); and Troy, Mich. (The Somerset Collection).

The Natick store is currently one of the three-dozen pop-ups that Microsoft launched last October as a way to temporarily expand its retail footprint. The others will be new locations, although some -- such as the store in Portland's Pioneer Place -- are additions to existing pop-ups or permanent stores elsewhere in a metropolitan area.

Today's announcement follows one in late December, when Microsoft said it would open six new retail stores in early 2013, including four transformed from the holiday specialty store list. None of the half-dozen are yet open, however.

Also in December, Microsoft said it would extend the lifespan of most of its pop-ups well into 2013 -- originally, they were to close after the holidays -- and turn some of those into 12-month stores. So far, it's announced that five of the original list of 34 pop-ups will become full-time outlets.

The new stores -- and the retention of the pop-ups -- will help Microsoft sell the Surface Pro, the more expensive of the two tablets it unveiled in mid-2012, and the only one that runs Windows 8 Pro.

The Surface Pro will sell for $899 and $999 in 64GB and 128GB configurations, with the Touch Cover and Type Cover keyboards offered separately for $120 and $130. They are to go on sale this Saturday, Feb. 9.

Microsoft did not specify opening dates for the five new stores, and the almost-up-to-date list on its website simply stated "Coming Soon" for three of the five.

That list shows 70 stores -- both permanent and pop-up -- in the U.S. and Canada, but has omitted two of the five stores slated for summer opening. By comparison, Apple's retail chain had 401 stores worldwide as of last month, with 251 of them in the U.S. alone.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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