After months of rumors, Microsoft today confirmed it will attempt to mirror the success that rival Apple has enjoyed in recent years by opening its own chain of retail stores. Without getting into details the company said it is hiring a former Walmart executive to lead the effort and help create a better "PC and Microsoft retail purchase experience for consumers worldwide."

The idea is to create a deeper engagement with consumers. It should also give Microsoft the opportunity to show off and hype Windows 7 in a controlled environment to try and make up for Vista's poor reception. Moreover the store is expected to feature the company's software and hardware, including the Xbox 360 console and Windows Mobile handsets, but could also display other products from partners that perhaps are hard to fit into the big-box retail shopping experience, like high-end Alienware PCs or media servers.