Microsoft chose a busy day to hold the grand opening of its Fifth Avenue retail store. Today marks the launch of the company's new Surface products, including the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4. And later, the new Microsoft Store (and countless other retailers) will hold a midnight launch for the release of Halo 5 for Xbox One. On hand for the store opening and ribbon cutting ceremony were Surface boss Panos Panay, Microsoft COO Kevin Turner, store manager Bill Madden, deputy mayor Richard Buery, and New York City's first-ever chief technology officer, Minerva Tantoco.
This is the first of Microsoft's retail locations to be labeled a "flagship" store, and is easily the largest Microsoft Store to date. The company is leasing five floors at the the 677 Fifth Avenue building, with three of them open to customers. The first two focus on Microsoft Windows devices (plus laptops from other OEMs), along with plenty of Xbox gear. On the second floor is the Answer Desk, Microsoft's answer for Apple's Genius Bar, where customers can get technical help and general troubleshooting assistance. Not far from the Answer Desk is the theater, with two giant-sized screens on each side that can be used for workshops, product training, and community events.
The third floor is pretty interesting, as it's exclusively dedicated to showcasing devices from Dell and its Alienware gaming business. "The Dell Experience at the Microsoft Store," as it's being called, already stocks brand new products like the XPS 12, 13, and 15 — all of them running a Signature, bloat-free version of Windows 10. That's true of any product you buy at the Microsoft Store, which makes it pretty much the best way of buying a new PC.
Does it feel like an Apple Store? Somewhat. The stores share a lot in common, and today's grand opening ceremony with cheering employees definitely evoked Apple's retail culture. But Microsoft has also done unique things here, like a two-story video tower at the store's center and more video walls on the first floor. If you're planning to buy a Windows machine, it's definitely a better route than dealing with your local Best Buy. Odds are this Microsoft Store will have better stock of that Surface Book you're hunting for, anyway. Maybe that's what makes it a flagship, since otherwise it feels very much like a Microsoft Store — only bigger.