Photos: Inside Microsoft's Flagship Sydney Retail Store

At midday today, Microsoft will throw open the doors on a multi-million dollar gamble to win the hearts and minds of Sydney's Windows users. This is what it's like inside the first Microsoft Store in Australia, and the first flagship retail store outside of New York. (56K warning: 20MB of images!)

In the middle of Sydney's Pitt Street Mall, the wraps will come off the two-storey, glass-fronted facade of 188 Pitt St, revealing the Microsoft At Westfield Sydney store. We took a look inside the day before its unveiling, and it's every bit as impressive as you'd expect from one of the world's biggest tech brands.

The first thing shoppers see when they walk through the Microsoft Store's big pair of floor-to-ceiling glass double doors is an open-plan room filled with dozens of laptops, 2-in-1 convertibles and tablet devices like the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book. Unlike the similarly laid out Apple Store a couple of blocks away, ground floor shoppers are encouraged to sit and get to grips with the Windows laptops in front of them.

Most of the tables in the main area are divided roughly by brand or device; there's a section just for Surface tablets, a section for Surface Books, for the Microsoft Band 2 activity tracker. An entire table is devoted to Microsoft's major Signature Edition partner Dell, while there are also Acer, Asus, Toshiba and Lenovo laptops and convertibles on display across the aisle. No device is tethered by cable to its desk.

Centrally located at the rear of the lower level is the Answer Desk — it's where shoppers will be greeted and directed to wherever they need to go, whether that's upstairs to a repair appointment, to find a specific brand or device, or for any other less common request. The Answer Desk will be staffed both by greeters and computer technicians, and Microsoft will virus-scan any PC brought through its doors.

There are hero podiums for Surface, Surface Book, and Microsoft Band throughout the lower and upper levels, and a massive 84-inch Surface Hub the the far right of the store greets Pitt Street entrants with anything from a high-res map view of Parliament House, to drawing demos, to a digital whiteboard. Each device has a placard with pricing. A bunch of Xbox One boxes, too, remind you what else Microsoft sells.

Off to the left of the Answer Desk is a section devoted to the Xbox One, with live game demos across the eight-screen video wall. The wall behind the Answer Desk, too, is made of video screens, and is a full two stories tall, with 30-odd displays linked together and displaying high-res video. To the right you'll find Windows and Surface accessories, Kate Spade fashion kit and a small Lumia break-out section.

Head up the stairs next to the Answer Desk — they're glass! — and you'll find the top level of the Microsoft Store in Westfield Sydney. (There's also a lift.) The top floor is a smaller version of the demo section, but also has a larger Answer Desk where longer service tasks like Windows upgrades, hardware troubleshooting and data transfers take place. You can even bring in a desktop PC and they'll help.

Off to the side of the top level is Microsoft's Community Theatre, where smaller workshops, demonstrations or more serious company or enterprise meetings can be held. The room can also be used for education — Microsoft already has some STEM courses booked in. Upstairs is also the more serious Xbox One gaming space, and the Community Theatre also has some gaming PCs from Alienware.

The upstairs Answer Desk is primarily targeted at walk-ins off the street — who'll be sent upstairs by the greeters — but you'll also be able to book appointments, both in person and online. Of the 50 staff currently working at the Microsoft Store, about 40 are sales and 10 are dedicated service techs. Microsoft's ethos is to help anyone with a Microsoft-related query, no matter how arcane or niche it is.

And that means, yes, you can bring in a Windows 95 notebook or your iPad running Office 365 apps, and they'll help you out to the best of their ability. Microsoft is also touting the Answer Desk's affordability — they'll do virus scans for free, for example, and any kind of basic consultation should be free too. It's only when hardware upgrades or a Windows purchase is necessary, for example, that you'll have to shell out.

Back downstairs, the right wall of the Microsoft Store in the Pitt Street Mall is wrapped by a long video wall — there are 178 screen in total, with 38 different video feeds to choose from — and is devoted to faster and more basic purchases like mice, keyboards and display adapters. Windows smartphones and Windows devices enjoy equal footing, and a demonstration of Continuum via a Lumia is also on show.

Both current and future Windows Phone devices — including that Display Dock, which will convert your Windows phone into a low-powered PC complete with keyboard, mouse and monitor — are on display, although you won't be able to buy one until "before Christmas". A bunch of different Surface Pro 4 Type Covers are on display, and you can also buy a Surface Pro 4 with a Bundle of gear at a bit of a discount.

The view from the Answer Desk downstairs covers the entire store — which might be important considering that no device — not even the Surface tablets — are tethered to the tables, and so could be nicked by a particularly enterprising and particularly ballsy thief. Sales terminals around the floor mean staff can sell via their Windows smartphones rather than needing to queue at a single point of sale.

When the covers come off, that Microsoft logo will still take pride of place on the second level's glass facade, although a bit of natural light will help out the store's Green Star-rated adjustable LED lighting. Gizmodo was shown through the Gensler-designed store by Pip Marlow, managing director of Microsoft Australia, and store manager Nick Wells, as part of a media preview a day before the opening.

Microsoft expects a lot of fans through the door at midday as the covers are thrown off, and also wants to foster an atmosphere where Windows users can feel at home and relax, without high-pressure sales tactics forcing them to buy or leave. Free Wi-Fi, too, should be a significant attractant to the Pitt Street tourist crowd, who'll be gently introduced to the Surface brand of Microsoft-made, first-party devices.


Comments

    Walked into the San Fran store and thought wow this is cool... checked out SP3, checked out some beat branded laptops they had there (not sure why)... checked out the xbox one section.... yeah cool, I guess there isn't heaps going for this place is there :)

    It will be a good venue to show off newer hardware like MS Band2, surface laptop, sp4 etc etc. Maybe when they enter the VR race it'll be a crazy good sales point for them as well.

      I think it'll get a lot of people sitting down and trying out Pro 4s, TBH. They look very inviting.

        Yeah it's a good time to open, I think anytime before the recent launch of products would have been a bit meh (like when I was in SF several months back).

        If their replacement service is similar to Apple then I guess that adds onto the value of buying a MS branded product as well.

          Definately a good time to open because next to no one is buying the MS Windows phones and next to no developers are developing apps for it.

      Have you checked out the Apple store chokkas full of people? it's got even less to showcase lol

        Why people would get excitied at a Dell or Acer or Asus or Lenovo is beyond me.

        I can't help but feel I have seen that store design before - minus the stools that is...can't quite put my finger on it though.

        Last edited 12/11/15 12:12 pm

          have you actually seen their premium lines? plus not everyone needs a revolutionary new concept

          the idea is that you sell ppl who want hybrids the surface line. But for those who are on a budget or want a vanilla laptop or ultrabook, you see the other brands

          then theres the whole mentality of helping non techy consumers understand that all these brands fall under the Windows operating system umbrella.

          THis is entirely a marketing and brand recognition move, with sales as secondary.

          Did they really need to copy those T-shirts too? Not even the poorly dressed IT guys at work look this bad. Perhaps they're trying to make customers feel like they haven't yet left their mum's basement.

      "Microsoft expects a lot of fans through the door" - but fans of who - Jessie J and Ellie Drennan?

        are you a bloody troll account or something?

          Nope - just read that they are giving out free tickets to some concert for the first 75 people or so which is something they have done in US when opening stores. Story goes that most people lining up want to go to the concert and don't give a rats about MS products. Whether this is true or not its a shame that MS feels they have to generate hype by giving away freebies just so nightly news stories can report big line ups. They should let enthusiasm for their own products stand on their own feet rather wanting a leg up from those who are attending for alternate reasons.

    Not sure about the stools tho. It will be messy and safety hazard when people don't tuck them back under the table. It depends on how many people visit I guess, if there's 1 person, sure why not sit down. But if it turns out to be like Apple store, then they have an issue.

    Secondly, it would be a lot more cool if they had a service desk that could handle all MS laptops from all brands. Some sort of contract in place, not saying it won't be complex, but it would simplify it for customers who have issues with a microsoft / windows machine / device.

      Sorry if I didn't make it clear, but they'll be dealing with all MS laptops from all brands -- at least from a software side of things. They'll also be able to pass on repair requests to the brands, IIRC.

        If they plan on doing free Virus checks for all walk-ins then they are going to need a bigger desk. Imagine how many people will be going there to get a free scan once a month.

          Is that people who can't quite press the "scan now" button, or those who like to get someone else monitor their scan while they catch a movie? bit strange.

            Either way - if they start to get swamped by those who want free labour such as virus scan/removal then I would expect them to shutter that service pretty quickly.

      It looks nice when not in use but as soon as those stools are strewn about the place then it will start to look like an untidy third grade class room..I guess the employees will be tasked to continually push the stools back in.

    Yeah looks nice but ...meh. I guess that has been my response to Microsoft for last few years now. By years I mean decade.

      They started to open the stores because no one was buying thier phones. It seems to be that the more stores they open the less phones they are selling.

        wut

          I think that since Windows Phone is about 2.3% market share (varies from country to country) MS is trying to get it in the hands of potential buyers by using these stores. It is no different to when Apple had difficulty selling iMacs, etc so they opened their own stores so people could come and have a play and answer technical questions. I doubt MS would be doing this is all their products were selling gangbusters.

    The place looks really nice. I'm digging that wooden classroom kind of feel. A larger place to have training days would be good -- I'm sure they could make a bundle holding small "for seniors" classes, or training sessions for people who decided to use even go want to do look more like, and would like some training in Windows Server or building apps for mobile / Windows 10 IoT / whatever.

    Went to the Answer Desk to ask them where the Apple Store was...they couldn't help me...what kind of Answer Desk is that anyway!!!

      *wouldn't help you ;)

    In Hawaii the Microsoft store is almost directly across the mall from the Apple store. The Apple store is bigger but they were both very busy. I went in both, but I just felt more at home in the MS store (I have an iPhone, iPad, Surface 1 RT, Win 10 Laptop and Xbox)

    This is more about presence than anything else, the rent alone on a prime location like that is over a million dollars per year maybe even more.

    I wonder how long this will last, if it lasts longer than 1 year I will be severely surprised.

    Is the pricing in store the same as on their website? Because, to be honest, I've always found the website pricing a bit high, and you can usually pick it up cheaper from a reseller (surface is a good example).

    Waiting for scalpers to list microsoft bands on ebay

    am i the only one who hopes Windows phone to make it...? lol

    I see a promising plat form if it works well. One than can properly rival the eco system of ios...
    i'm too much into ios, but if i can, i'd drop all and get out. but i don't like androids.

      I've been using windows phone for a few years now and I really like it. I'm keen to see what they've done with windows 10 mobile. I certainly hope they don't kill it as a mobile platform.

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