Microsoft to open its first European retail outlet in London… next to Apple’s flagship store

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After years of speculation, Microsoft finally confirmed plans to open its first physical retail store in Europe.

The tech giant revealed that it will open a store by Oxford Circus in London’s Regent Street, a prestigious thoroughfare in the heart of the U.K. capital. Interestingly, the new Microsoft store will be situated just a stone’s throw from Apple’s flagship outlet, which reopened with a redesign just last year.

Microsoft already operates online stores in Europe, of course, selling everything from hardware such as Xbox One and Surface Book, to software including Office and games.The company has long flirted with a European brick-and-mortar presence, with rumors of an imminent European launch dating back at least to 2012. But for one reason or another, it has never quite come to fruition.

A history of Microsoft stores

The Seattle-based firm first debuted an “on-the-ground” retail experience in 1999 at the Sony-owned Metreon shopping complex in San Francisco, but the company exited there in 2010. Microsoft kickstarted its proper retail store chain efforts in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2009. The company now claims almost one hundred retail stores across the U.S., including its New York flagship which opened in 2015. It has since gone international, with retail stores opening in Canada, Puerto Rico, and Australia.

A growing trend we’re seeing is “online” and traditionally software-focused companies shifting further into the brick-and-mortar realm. Amazon has been opening physical bookstores in the U.S., while it has a growing presence on university campuses in the U.S. too where students can try out the company’s own-brand devices. Oh, then there’s its $13.7 billion acquisition of supermarket chain Whole Foods.

Google, too, has dabbled increasingly in physical outlets, though it has yet to go full-throttle with fully-fledged retail stores. However, with yesterday’s news that it is buying HTC’s Pixel smartphone team for more than $1 billion, that could change in the future.

With Microsoft edging deeper into the hardware realm, now selling a bunch of own-brand Surface laptops, tablets, all-in-one PCs, consoles, mixed reality headsets, accessories, and even a long-rumored phone reportedly in the works, the need to have a physical presence is more important than ever.

“Our customer experience in our physical stores generates confidence and trust in our products and services,” noted David Porter, head of Microsoft Stores. Visitors can expect to see a range of products not just for sale, but also for show across computing, gaming, mixed reality, and artificial intelligence (AI), he added.

The London store has been a long time coming, though a firm date for its opening hasn’t been given.

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