Microsoft prepares to emulate Apple with launch of retail chain

LONDON - Microsoft has announced plans to open a number of retail stores across the US to showcase its products in an attempt to match the success of Apple's lucrative branded shops.

Microsoft has appointed two former Wal-Mart executives to lead the project -- Kevin Turner, Microsoft's chief operating officer, and David Porter, currently Dreamworks' head of product distribution, who has been tasked with assigning store locations.

Microsoft, in a statement, said: "The purpose of opening these stores is to create deeper engagement with consumers and continue to learn what they want and how they buy."

The stores will give Microsoft a chance to showcase a number of its products from desktop computers and software, to entertainment based products such as its Zune mp3 player and Xbox gaming consol.

Analysts have warned that Microsoft risks aggravating its US retail partners, such as Best Buy, Dell, Radio Shack and CompUSA, who already sell its products.

A number of electronic companies, such as Sony and Bose, have seen success with their own concept stores.

The benchmark remains with Apple's distinctive outlets. As well as topping up sales of its products, Apple has used the stores to promote the brand.

Microsoft's retail stores will aim to provide a boost in revenue amid difficult trading conditions.

Last month the company announcing 5,000 jobs would be cut worldwide following an 11% fall in net income during the second quarter.

Elsewhere electronic sales have been struggling in the US.

Last November, Circuit City filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, resulting in the closure of over 550 stores and 34,000 job losses.

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