A Tale of Two Stores

This morning’s Observer column.

The prospect of Microsoft and Apple stores side by side is rich in comic possibilities. For one thing, what will the Microsoft store sell? It's a software company: its hardware range consists of the Xbox games console, some keyboards and mice, and the Zune music player – which, compared with the iPod, looks like something produced by the Soviet Union in its heyday. But a retail store needs exciting hardware to attract people in off the street and create a buzz.

Stand by, then, for a new range of viral ads from Apple. A Tale of Two Stores, perhaps. One establishment is crowded with teenagers browsing Facebook and trying to get off with one another, watched by benevolently smiling, T-shirted geeks. The other is a deserted cavern, rather like one of those Sony outlets, in which dispirited chaps in ties try to interest passing tramps in the new features of Office 2009. YouTube here we come!