“Microsoft’s Windows Store represents a vital strategic step forward in its retail strategy and ought to yield some benefits. At the same time, the move should have happened several years ago, it isn’t quite as ambitious as it might have been, and Microsoft will have to work hard to overcome legacy practices within the Best Buy ecosystem,” writes Forrester Principal Analyst J.P. Gownder in a blog post analyzing Microsoft’s announcement that it will partner with Best Buy to launch in-store Windows Stores across the US.

“Why is this move essential for Microsoft? Put simply, the non-Apple Store North American retail channel for consumer electronics is broken . . . and it’s getting more broken,” Gownder writes. “Absent a customer-centered, richly curated shopping experience, consumers can’t figure out what all these Windows 8 options represent. Which are laptop replacements, and which are adjunct devices? Which form factors can truly be thought of as tablets, and which are more ‘PCs plus touch’? To navigate the confusing diversity of choice, buyers need: 1) compelling displays where they can touch/feel, try out, and, most importantly, determine how a device would fit into their own lives, and 2) compelling sales conversations with well-trained store associates. These are some of the needs the Windows Store will attempt to address.”

“All in all, the opportunities outweigh the challenges with this move,” writes Gownder. “But Microsoft will not rise to the strategically stellar position currently occupied by the Apple Store, which remains the most impressive achievement in retail in any category.”

For the full analysis, visit J.P. Gownder’s blog here.