Microsoft Gurus at Best Buy to Pimp Windows

It appears that Microsoft is doing a lot more than having Jerry Seinfeld munching churros and going shoe shopping with Bill Gates to help bolster the company's image. Part of Microsoft's $300 million marketing campaign includes placing Microsoft customer service representatives in select consumer electronics retail outlets across the U.S.

Similar in nature to "Apple Geniuses," Microsoft will be placing 155 "Microsoft Gurus" at Best Buy, Circuit City, and similar stores before the end of this year--presumably in time for the holiday shopping season. While the Microsoft Gurus will "be answering questions about PCs and Microsoft products, as well as giving demos of how the company's products work together," unlike Apple Geniuses, the Microsoft Gurus will not answer tech support questions. Tom Pilla, Microsoft's general manager of corporate communications, compared the experience customers will receive from Microsoft Gurus to that of they would expect from personal shoppers at a high-end, department store, such as Nordstrom. Microsoft's goal is to have "Windows-branded sales environments and store-within-a-store concepts."

The first Jerry Seinfeld Windows commercial
(Video requires Microsoft Silverlight;
alternatively, you can watch it here)

"Pilla said the campaign is meant to show consumers the interconnectedness of Microsoft's Windows products - which include an operating system for computers, a mobile operating system for smart phones and Windows Live online services - and how they can be used with various devices.

'There's an ease-of-use I don't think we've done a great job of communicating when (customers are) using Windows and when they have Windows in their lives,' he said."

In other words, the Microsoft Gurus are there to help pimp how various Microsoft products (especially Windows Vista) can potentially make people's lives more efficient and easier. Apparently Microsoft has already tested this out as a pilot program with 25 customer service representatives in stores in the U.S. and Europe since last October. The Microsoft Gurus will not earn commission on any sales they help foster. If the project is deemed to be a success, Microsoft plans to expand it even further next year in more stores with more customer service representatives.

Behind the scenes, Microsoft has recently created a number of initiatives for working "with PC and device manufacturers to create hardware better-suited to deliver the kinds of experiences with Windows that customers want":

"The Windows team is putting in place an objective set of quality tests for PCs that span performance, reliability and security, working with manufacturers such as Acer, Asus, Dell, Founder, Fujitsu, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, Wortmann and Packard Bell."

The Retail Experience Center on the Microsoft Campus
(Credit: Microsoft)

Bill Veghte, Senior Vice President, Online Services & Windows Business Group, says the fruit of these labors will start paying off with a new "wave of PCs" hitting the shelves this fall. Microsoft claims to have worked with these manufacturers to speed up system start up and shutdown times, and well as improve sleep and resume times.

"Microsoft will feature these PCs at its Web site, which is also undergoing a thorough transformation of its own. In addition to pointing consumers to specific PCs and driving them toward the right hardware for their unique needs, the new Web site will feature more consumer-oriented help and how-to videos designed to help build affinity for Windows and awareness of underutilized features and capabilities."

Between the new ads (of which Jerry Seinfeld is rumored to be making $10 million), the in-store Microsoft Geniuses Gurus, the new initiatives with systems manufacturers, and the revamp of the Web site, it's easy to see where the $300 million is going. It's also easy to see why Microsoft is making this push now--especially with news stories such as today's BusinessWeek "HP's 'End Run' Around Windows" story and yesterday's New York Times story titled "Does Windows Still Matter?," becoming more common. Vista has not only been getting a lot of bad press since its release, but some companies have even avoided upgrading to Vista and less than one out of 12 developers claim to be developing Vista-specific applications. It looks like Microsoft has its work cut for it... About $300 million worth of work, apparently.

Additional information for this story culled from the Associated Press