With release of the Surface Pro imminent, and word on the street that both the Microsoft Store and Best Buy already had units on display, I made another stop at both of my local outlets. I know I sound like a broken record, but while the Microsoft Store experience was excellent the Best Buy experience was almost criminally bad.
The Microsoft Store had a Surface Pro right out front (though oddly it was equipped with a Touch Cover rather than Type Cover) and then several more on the first two tables in the center of the store. They put the Surface Pro on the corners of the tables with Surface RT in the center positions so you could compare the two. The store was already out of reservation cards with sales people reporting heavy interest in the Surface Pro. If you desperately want one you just have to show up Saturday and hope they don’t run out of stock. I do get the impression they are expecting good supplies, but demand still could leave you waiting.
I started playing with all the other tablets and convertibles in the store, and they now have quite the selection. While playing with the HP Envy x2 a store employee young enough to be my granddaughter swung by and asked if I’d detached the tablet yet. I pulled it out of the dock and she proceeded to talk about how much she likes that particular tablet design, the weight, feel of materials, etc. It is a 10.6″ tablet, like the Surface, but with more traditional curved edges. As I wrote about after I first saw a video of this device last year it seems like a great offering if what you want is primarily a clamshell notebook with the ability to detach a very nice tablet from it.
My “granddaughter” and I then discussed numerous other devices they had at the store. And she left me sort of embarrassed by pointing out the obvious. The magnetic connector for the cover on the Surface is symmetric. So if you have a Type cover, and find it unnerving to hold your Surface as a tablet with your fingers on the keys behind it, you can quickly pull the cover off and click it in place in the reverse direction. Now your fingers rest on the fabric-like back instead of the keys themselves. Duh.
My trip to Best Buy was its usual “why bother” experience. At least they’ve taken the ASUS signage off the little table with the Surface, and put a Surface Pro next to it. Unfortunately they don’t have a Type or Touch Cover attached to it. They do have a nice (Microsoft-supplied, I think) poster that helps you decide if you should get a Surface or Surface Pro.
The rest of their tablet and convertible selection hasn’t changed much (meaning mostly MIA). The ASUS VivoTab RT was gone from the display in the mobile area, though the signage remained. Actually they really confused matters by having a Windows 8 x86 Ultrabook labeled as a Windows RT device. Apparently the staff just slid the price card for the Ultrabook into the description they had sitting there for the VivoTab. Sloppy.
Indeed I realized that 80% of the problem at Best Buy is just being sloppy and lacking attention to detail. That means they could make a huge improvement with no increase in cost. I’d even come in and prove that for them at no charge, except that I want 20% of any improvement in monthly sales that results. If they go chain-wide with it I’ll settle for 5%
I mean really Best Buy, things like having the right signs on the right devices. Improving signage overall. Creating a demo Microsoft Account so that devices are actually usable (e.g., you can’t look at Mail on a Windows 8 system because it wants a Microsoft Account; something addressed at the Microsoft Store). Keeping Windows and the installed apps updated (again a Microsoft Account problem). Installing more cool apps from the store so users can get a better idea of the device experience (something the Apple Store is great at). Having bored employees man demo stations for featured devices when there aren’t customers in need of assistance. All pretty small stuff actually.
Here is a simple truth. If what you want is a cheap notebook and don’t care much about the buying experience or the latest technology then go to Best Buy. If you want to see and hopefully buy the latest and greatest, with a good shopping experience as well, go to a Microsoft Store. Especially now, with the Microsoft Store having a full array of tablets and convertibles and Best Buy having almost nothing. Sadly, most readers of this will not have a Microsoft Store close enough to check out at lunch hour (and they might even need to get on an airplane to visit one). Microsoft needs to fix this, or fix its retail partners.