Microsoft's newest retail store at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg is highly focused on one thing: interactivity.
Set to open at 10:30 a.m. today, store manager Lisa Seigneur said Friday Microsoft wants customers to test and play with everything so they can more easily figure out what product fits best.
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And that begins before even entering the store.
Two screens are set up right outside the entrance with a seating area for each. Passers-by can sit and test out Windows 8, Microsoft's new operating system, or play Kinect games, which rely on body movements instead of a controller for gameplay.
Seigneur said the area is designed to draw people into the store, which is wrapped in a ribbon of stacked, 47-inch LED screens.
Any of the store's Windows devices can be hooked up and displayed on the screens if customers want to see applications or programs on a bigger canvas.
Splashed with rainbow colors, the store is mostly set up in stations, where customers can test out different products including the company's tablet, the Surface, or its Windows phones. Featured laptops include ones from Acer, Sony and Lenovo.
Customers can get custom skins, or covers, for their Surface tablets with an in-store device. Seigneur said employees can print the skin and attach it for customers before they leave.
The back half of the store is mostly dedicated to Xbox products and is clad with a game display wall. The LED ribbon on that end can be used to view and play Kinect or other Xbox games.
A 94-inch screen adorns the tail-end of the store, set in front of viewing benches. It will be used to test out Xbox games or host educational seminars, Seigneur said. It can also be rented out free-of-cost by anyone who wants to have a "cool space" to do a presentation, she added, and store associates can help set up.
Accessories like headphones, laptop cases, and Surface keyboards are in the back, too.
Customers can sign up for a free consultation where Seigneur said they'll get in-depth advice on what to buy.
"We really want to ensure that customers get a customized experience," she said when asked what will set the store apart from Apple, whose Woodfield store is across the corridor one story up.
The store is Microsoft's third in Illinois, joining ones in Oak Brook and Chicago.
It's likely that this store won't convert "loyalist" Apple users, said Anne Brouwer, senior consultant at McMillanDoolittle retail consulting firm. But she said it's a different story for the undecided.
"Microsoft is for the first time selling a lot of things," she said. "(Apple) has had fewer new gamebuster products recently, so people are exploring new options."
To celebrate the opening, the alternative rock band Weezer will give an outdoor concert on the corner of Woodfield and West Frontage roads at 7 p.m. today.
The first 200 people in line outside the store at the opening will get a free ticket to see the band and a ticket to meet members of the group. Each person after that will get two tickets to see the band perform until tickets run out.
People could line up outside the store, which is located on the west side of the mall between JC Penney and Nordstrom, starting 10 p.m. Friday.