Now Performing at Birthday Parties, Windows 8!

Note: I was recently invited by The Motherhood Team to be part of a group of bloggers invited to learn more about the Microsoft Store. We received a briefing from company execs, were encouraged to visit a store and to write up a post on our impressions. Mine follow.

To describe my experience at the Microsoft Store at the Domain in Austin, Texas, it might be easier to start by outlining what I didn’t feel.

I didn’t feel like I was imposing on anyone.
I didn’t feel like my playlists were lame.
I didn’t feel like there was a clock ticking in the background.
I didn’t feel like my tattoos weren’t ironic enough.
I didn’t feel like it was a problem that my jeans are “relaxed fit.”
I didn’t feel like an idiot with an insatiable desire for expensive products so unquenchable that I would take any attitude that service personnel dished out, endure lines or waits or whatever herd management was on offer, or need to wander around desperately trying to make eye contact with someone wearing the latest in square rimmed spectacles in order to get my questions answered.

I did feel welcomed. I did feel like Scott and Meg and the rest of the Microsoft Store team I spoke with had a clear mastery of the technology they introduced me to. I felt like their enthusiasm for the products and the brand was genuine.

This was never more evident than during my walk-through with the Surface tablet. The Surface is clearly not a “Me, Too” device. This is a complete rethink of tablet software and user experience. I was impressed by the power, flexibility and professional applications the device offered. It’s a legit possibility for laptop replacement.

I had fun with Smartglass, pairing the Surface with an Xbox 360. That might help me with my hopeless gaming skills in father/son Madden scrimmages. And I thought the on-site skinning available for Xboxes could also win me some much needed cred with the teen ones in my house.

The store itself lays out like others in the same market — an open space with products organized on flat tables by type. Phones here, tablets there, desktops over there. The color scheme is different, the vibe is different, but I can see how some might cry “copy cat” at first glance.

But first glance fails to capture the theatre area in the back of the store. This is where things get interesting, and quite differentiated from the competition. The 100” touchscreen dominates an open space which also features about half a dozen high tables and chairs. It’s an ideal presentation/teaching space.

And it’s being used for just that. The store offers seminars and classes, even free summer camps for kids. Free. Summer. Camps. Day long, activity filled, tech oriented experiences for children in the dog days. Can you beat that?

Not only that, the space can be reserved for community events, even birthday parties.

The events, classes and community events availability makes the location more than a store. It’s a crossroads where a brand and a community of users, young and old, can come together.

Have you visited a Microsoft Store? Leave a comment with your reactions, or other thoughts about tech stores in general, and you will be registered to win a $100 Microsoft gift card!

You can also join me for a #GoMicrosoft Twitter party tomorrow!

What: Microsoft stores across the country have more to offer than just tech products. Many Microsoft locations offer an Answer Desk, in-store events, personal computer training and much more!

During this Twitter chat we’ll be exploring all of the ways that the experts at Microsoft can help make your life easier. Your Microsoft store isn’t just a place to shop, but a fun place to visit – for both you and your kids!

When: Thursday, May 14, at 1 p.m. ET (the party will last one hour)

Where: We’ll be on Twitter – follow the #GoMicrosoft hashtag to track the conversation.

Hashtag: #GoMicrosoft

Prizes: We will be giving away six prizes to randomly selected winners. Five winners who answer trivia questions during the party will receive $25 Microsoft retail store gift cards, and one grand prize winner will be chosen for a $500 Microsoft retail store gift card!

Hosts: @theMotherhood, @CooperMunroe, @EmilyMcKhann

Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in this program. I did not, however, get any of the cool gadgets that they have in the Microsoft Store, even thought I whined about it a little bit.