SOME NEWS OF NOTE

Here's a good one! Microsoft is planning on opening a number of proprietary brand stores throughout the United States. Taking a page out of the Apple playbook, the PC giant is planning on improving its brand image and access with the stores. According to this article in the New York Times:

The company had hired David Porter, a 25-year veteran of Wal-Mart Stores, as its corporate vice president for retail stores.
Mr. Porter, who is set to start work on Tuesday, is charged with improving the PC-buying experience. The company said his first task would be to set the timing, locations and design of Microsoft-branded retail stores, which will sell computers installed with Microsoft software as well as other company products.

Oh yeah, a Wal-Mart guy is gonna improve the experience. Good luck with that.

Offering up a yin to the this yang is this story from the NYT, detailing Nestle's Nespresso brand and it's impressive growth. It costs "seven to eight times as much" to make a cup of Nespresso brand coffee than it does to brew a traditional cup, and yet Nespresso's sales grew 30 percent in 2008:

While Starbucks usually gets credit for standardizing coffeehouse culture and taking it around the world, Nespresso is credited with standardizing premium coffee in the workplace and at home through its pod machine, which brews a cup at a time from small aluminum capsules that hold just enough grounds for a serving.

Nestlé probably did not invent the idea of the pod — the Italian coffee maker Illy claims that. But it parlayed it into a global marketing phenomenon.The brand is distributed in 50 countries and employs more than 2,500 worldwide.

Most sales come from Europe, but it is also available in Latin America and North America and has made inroads in traditional tea markets like Asia.Nespresso now has about 175 boutique storefronts where customers can buy machines, capsules and accessories, sip coffee and taste the lifestyle.And that lifestyle does not come cheap.

The coffee machines, which are co-branded, range from basic models by Krups and Magimix, which cost 149 euros ($189) at the Paris store, to a deluxe Miele digital model at 1,849 euros, not including installation.The makers keep the profit from the machines.

Nespresso sells the coffee pods, which are available only through Nespresso boutiques, online and by telephone. It charges around 45 cents to 50 cents for each capsule, which contains 5.5 grams to 7 grams of coffee. That price is seven to eight times the price of Colombian ground coffee in French supermarkets.

Word. The experience is the message, folks.

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