Microsoft will open a flagship shop in central London on Thursday in a move that aims to reconnect the software giant to its customers (both consumers and businesses).

The first physical retail store for Microsoft in the UK will be located on Oxford Circus (on Regent Street) and covers 21,932 square feet over three floors.

It will apparently be the only Microsoft retail outlet in Europe, and one of just three flagship locations globally, that are intended to give people a taste of the Microsoft experience.

Microsoft’s HoloLens 2. Image credit: Microsoft

Bricks and mortar

According to CNN, the software giant will use the store to get closer to its customers, and visitors will be able to test Microsoft software and games (there is for example a gaming lounge for the Xbox), or get some tech support.

Corporate clients are catered for on a separate floor, and people can also try out mixed reality solutions.

“I’ve been working on this for several years because it’s all about location in retail,” Cindy Rose, Microsoft’s UK CEO was quoted by CNN as saying. “We wanted the best possible location on the planet.”

“Of course you can buy products here, but this is really about the experience we provide to our customers,” Rose reportedly said. “I think this is just the most prime piece of real estate you could possibly find,” she said.

Chris Capossela, Redmond’s chief marketing officer, reportedly said the new store is “unique” in showcasing the Microsoft “experience.”

“The Microsoft brand has become a lot more human, a lot more approachable than maybe the early days, when it was very hard tech,” Capossela said.

“Now we’re about gaming, now we’re about building the next great software application that might rule the world in 15 years,” he said.

Microsoft’s UK boss Cindy Rose also used the opportunity to highlight the Brexit issue, a subject that Microsoft has two main concerns about, namely the continued free flow of data, and legal protection for its staff.

Rose said she is concerned about the legal status of Microsoft staff being able to work legally in European countries, but she also said that she believes the United Kingdom will continue to prosper regardless of the political landscape.

Consumer retreat?

Microsoft’s decision to open a retail store in London may raise a few eyebrows among industry watchers.

Aside from gaming (Xbox), many feel that Microsoft has effectively retreated from the consumer market in recent years to focus heavily on the cloud, under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella.

Its Surface branded devices are very expensive for example, and in January this year Redmond finally admitted there was no recovery from its ignominious retreat from the smartphone sector, after it advised Windows 10 Mobile diehards to switch to either Android or iOS handsets.

Indeed, the Windows Phone platform of course has been dead as a dodo for a while now, but fans had been hoping against hope that Redmond would be more committed to its successor (Windows 10 Mobile).

There is also ongoing concern about the future of Cortana in the consumer space, and matters were not helped when Microsoft shut down its Groove Music service and told its users to switch to Spotify.

Microsoft has also been accused of ignoring Skype for some years now, which has been in decline against the likes of WhatsApp and Apple Facetime.

And there is no replacement for the Windows 10 OS – an operating system that was released to market way back in 2015. Instead Microsoft going forward is providing updates for the OS.

Quiz: Do you know all about Microsoft Windows Phone?

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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