Although Microsoft isn't making its own PCs, the software maker is taking an active role in customizing just what goes on the computers it sells through its online and retail stores.
In its new role as PC retailer, Microsoft is loading computers with what it's calling its Microsoft Signature experience--a collection of Microsoft products, including the complete Windows Live suite, Security Essentials antivirus product, Zune jukebox, and Bing 3D Maps software, as well as Adobe's Flash and Acrobat Reader products. Internet Explorer 8 is the browser, with Bing as its default search provider.
The computers are being sold at Microsoft's two retail stores--the Scottsdale, Ariz., store that opened last week and the Mission Viejo, Calif., outlet that is opening later on Thursday. The software giant is also selling PCs throughout the U.S. via its online Microsoft Store.
The goal of the Signature effort is to give customers what Microsoft feels is the best software experience they can have on a PC.
"Signature gives them a PC that is ready to run," Microsoft retail unit chief technology strategist Kevin Eagan said in an interview. "We think we're really unlocking the potential of Windows 7."
Microsoft isn't completely deciding what goes on the system. Computer makers can also add software that takes advantage of particular hardware features, but it's not allowing any trialware or "crapware."
"Much like other retailers would define (what goes on their PCs), we do the same working closely with our (computer maker) partners," Eagan said.
As part of the in-store experience, Microsoft staffers will also help customers install other software they might want--even competitor's products, such as Apple's iTunes. They can also change their browser or default search provider before they leave the store, Eagan said.
"We want to give customers what they are asking for, so they leave store 100 percent satisfied," Eagan said.
Eagan said Microsoft is just taking advantage of the customization options that other retailers also have available to them and said the company doesn't anticipate any regulatory concerns.
"We're absolutely confident that what we've done is added another choice for customers," he said. "We think expanded choice is good for customers."
Those who already have a PC, but live near one of Microsoft's stores, can bring in their PC and have the Microsoft Security Essentials software added at no charge.