Well, we say surprise, but let’s face it, it’s not terribly exciting – seems Microsoft, sponsors of Family Guy, givers of Win Mob 6.5 and desperate to convince XP users to switch to its latest operating system plans to open its first retail locations on Windows 7 launch day, October 22.

We already know these locations emulate Apple’s cool shops in almost every way – video screens, layout, location, tech help bars, the lot. Engadget sources now claim Microsoft’s take on an Apple shop will begin opening up (to take business from nearby PC retailers) on that day.

“Specifically, the Scottsdale store will swing the doors wide on the 22nd, we’re not sure about the Mission Viejo location,” the report states.

In a separate report the Wall Street Journal notes the risks Microsoft runs, quite apart from the cost of its retail locations, “Microsoft depends on existing partners in the retail business that could be threatened by the company’s expansion into their turf," Wingfield reports. "Microsoft’s hardware partners could also be angered by its decisions about which devices to stock and which to exclude from its store shelves."

"The most eye-catching element of Microsoft’s store designs is likely to be the wall-sized high-definition screens, according to someone who has seen them. Laptops, mobile phones, Zunes and other devices will be arranged on spacious tables inside the stores."

Perhaps one of the more interesting things about the stores will be the chance they give to re-connect with those former Apple retail staff Microsoft has been recruiting to man its shops.

Investors may also be asking, with Apple scooping up the most profitable sales in computing with its machines, what exactly will be the viable margin for Microsoft’s shops? Presumably it won’t make a great deal from sales of hardware, other than its Xbox; though it may see some benefit from OS ad software sales. When the numbers for Microsoft’s retail segment begin to drop, we guarantee there’ll be some data-crunching as financial analysts and stockholders ask, “does this pay”?

Thanks to Engadget for the image, because we just lurve what they’ve done – we particularly like the small child to the mid-left of the picture, who is presumably desperate to be taken next door to that cool iPod shop. That’s what we call “pester power”. And the Windows user in the right of the pic seems, erm, somewhat “unusually” dressed….

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