Fresh from announcing its worst financial results yet, Microsoft’s attempt to regain relevance continues, and now more light’s been shed on its plan to launch a chain of “me too” stores to compete with Apple’s highly successful retail stores.

Gizmodo has published a PowerPoint presentation said to emanate from design and brand consultancy, Lippicott. These seem to show just how closely Microsoft’s planned stores will emulate Apple’s own. You’ll have an “Answer Bar” – just like Apple’s ‘Genius Bar’ – for troubleshooting your Windows machine (oh just imagine how busy they’ll be there – will anyone want to work in that position?).

You’ll have those Microsoft Surface table top computers dotted around in-store, a digital media wall with big video screens, and dedicated product areas for Windows 7, Media Centre, netbooks and more. You can even pay to host a party in one of these stores….

Gizmodo warns these slides could be fake, but given Microsoft’s talent for imitation, they could well reflect the vision for the beleaguered company’s retail outlet plan.

Frank Shaw of Waggener Edstrom commented on Gizmodo’s story on behalf of Microsoft, saying that, “No final decisions have been made,” but some early design prototypes are indeed in circulation, with the first stores set to open in autumn.

Bear in mind the background: Microsoft’s sales fell another 17 per cent in the just gone quarter as profits slid an astonishing 29 per cent. Sales fell to $13.1 billion, a billion short of analyst expectations and the second quarter of decline. Will a chain of highly expensive retail shops truly be enough for Microsoft to regain relevancy?

As noted by MacDailyNews, recall a 2004 BusinessWeek interview with Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who points out: “Apple had a monopoly on the graphical user interface for almost ten years. That’s a long time. And how are monopolies lost? Think about it. Some very good product people invent some very good products, and the company achieves a monopoly. But after that, the product people aren’t the ones that drive the company forward anymore. It’s the marketing guys or the ones who expand the business into Latin America or whatever. Because what’s the point of focusing on making the product even better when the only company you can take business from is yourself?

"So a different group of people start to move up. And who usually ends up running the show? The sales guy… Then one day, the monopoly expires for whatever reason. But by then the best product people have left, or they’re no longer listened to. And so the company goes through this tumultuous time, and it either survives or it doesn’t.”

Jobs then points out that the sales guy now runs Microsoft, Steve Ballmer.

Except Microsoft doesn’t seem to be selling like it used to, judging from its financial results. Meanwhile, Apple is preparing to upgrade its iPod range with huge online retailer Amazon now selling existing models of the media player at up to 13 per cent off normal price.

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