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New York: Most of the luxury brands on the storefronts of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, one of the world’s most famous shopping thoroughfares, seem to belong together, like the notes of a song.

There are Tiffany & Co, Gucci, Armani, Valentino, Rolex and — cue the sound of a record needle sliding off vinyl — Microsoft?

Yes, the company that brought us Windows and Office is opening a store on the street that brought us $5,000 handbags and $20,000 watches. The doors of the new flagship Microsoft Store will open to the public on Monday.

It is an expensive gamble on a retail strategy still a long way from paying off. It does not take a detective to see that the foot traffic is often light at the Microsoft shops the company has opened — the Fifth Avenue store will be its 113th — in the last six years. 

That’s a contrast with the jamborees usually found over at Apple’s stores, inevitably a few blocks away or across the mall from Microsoft’s electronics boutiques.

Arguably, the issue has not been with the stores themselves, which are decent facsimiles of the uncluttered layout of Apple’s stores, but rather with what has been for sale inside them. That could be about to change, though, thanks to a wave of new Microsoft products landing this week, all of them attracting more attention than the company’s holiday lineup has in years. If there is any Microsoft Store that can pack them in, it will be the Fifth Avenue location. The company gutted a building from the 1930s that was previously a Fendi store, replacing all but the top of its facade with huge sheets of glass.

Behind the glass wall, a 20-by-40-foot electronic screen will display noncommercial digital artwork to pedestrians and drivers on Fifth Avenue.

Inside, the store is spacious — more than 22,000 square feet, Microsoft’s biggest to date. It is the first multistory Microsoft Store and only the second that is not in a shopping mall. The other one is in Portland, Oregon. Walking into the store, what hits you first are the Microsoft devices arrayed on large tables in the middle of the room. Company executives say the stores will provide tech support even if a visitor has not bought a Microsoft device.

The Fifth Avenue location also shows the upmarket aspirations Microsoft has for its products. In addition, fashion and technology are merging, as with the Microsoft Band fitness bracelet that the company is selling in the store.


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