Microsoft have confirmed rumors that they intend to open new, Microsoft-branded stores, which will apparently aim to "make more informed decisions about their PC and software purchases" (assuming those decisions involve Windows). No timescale nor prospective locations for the retail chain have been disclosed; deciding those facts will be the responsibility of new hire David Porter, previously of DreamWorks Animation and, before that, WalMart.
Porter, who begins on February 16th, will be Microsoft's new corporate vice president of Retail Stores, reporting to Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner. Although the retail locations will obviously sell hardware that runs Microsoft software or the company's range of peripherals, it will also be a branding and goodwill exercise, hoping to copy a little of Apple's consumer engagement.
Microsoft have previously had a retail presence at the San Francisco Metreon mall, but the store closed in November 2001. More recently, it opened a "concept retail environment" at its Redmond campus, which it suggested was not a sign of widespread retail intentions but more a way of demonstrating to vendors how best to market Microsoft products. Perhaps this new project means that all the vendors flunked that class.