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Tech Giants Tout Retail Chops

Mari Silbey
12/3/2013
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About 10 years ago, it would have been hard to imagine Comcast hosting any kind of "consumer experience" other than a tech support call. But times they are a'changing. Now everyone wants a chance to prove what their technology can do, and an end-cap display at the local big box store just isn't enough.

Here are five ways to experience the miracle of technology this holiday season, courtesy of your favorite (or maybe not) big tech brands.

1. The Comcast Holiday Spectacular
If you have never been inside Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s impressive HQ in downtown Philadelphia, the holiday season is the perfect time for a visit. The walls of the lobby come to life as a gigantic display screen, highlighting Comcast's video prowess in all its high-definition glory. Think IMAX theater, or planetarium, but with Earth scenes. This year Comcast has added theater performers, animated penguins, and ice skaters to its 15-minute show alongside holiday window displays and scenes from the Nutcracker ballet.

Comcast: Preparing to deploy the animated penguins.
Comcast: Preparing to deploy the animated penguins.

2. Microsoft Retail Stores
Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) now has more than 75 retail stores around the US, giving you ample opportunity to try out the new Xbox One. Taking a page out of Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s playbook, Microsoft wants you to play with its merchandise as an enticement to buy. No word, however, on whether you can access the Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) FiOS app for Xbox One in stores. Given the limited FiOS footprint, probably not.

Footfall was on the low side in this Xbox store.
Footfall was on the low side in this Xbox store.

3. Verizon Destination Store
Speaking of Verizon, the wireless giant opened up its first Destination Store in the Mall of America this month. With plans for more retail locations on the way, Verizon is highlighting lifestyle zones in its new stores with titles like "Get Fit," "Have Fun," and "Home and On the Go." Expect the focus to be more on wireless phones and tablets than FiOS TV.

She's come such a long way since Barney & Friends: Selena Gomez fiddles with something in the Verizon Wireless store.
She's come such a long way since Barney & Friends: Selena Gomez fiddles with something in the Verizon Wireless store.

4. Intel Experience Stores
News of a pop-up Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) store for the holidays in New York City was a lot more interesting when the chip company had plans to launch its OnCue subscription video service. But if you're still interested in "Intel inside," you can check out the new retail site in New York's NoLita (North of Little Italy) region until January 25. (See Intel Kissing OTT Goodbye?.)

Look what Intel popped up with.
Look what Intel popped up with.

5. Google Glass Tour
Few people outside the developer community have gotten their hands on Google Glass, but Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is now taking its technology on a roadshow in the hope of gaining more evangelists. The tour hit Durham, N.C., in October, and Detroit in November. There's no word yet on the next pit stop, but I'm rooting for D.C. in December.

She has seen the future. Possibly.
She has seen the future. Possibly.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading Cable

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Ray@LR
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[email protected],
User Rank: Blogger
12/3/2013 | 6:04:29 AM
Google Glass half empty
I hope the Google roadshow goe sto DC so you can try to get a first hand experience and report back, Mari. My personal view is that this is one of Google's efforts that will not live up to its expectations - no doubt my offspring will prove me wrong....

And who wants to go inside that Intel store? Not I. Time to revisit the storefront strategy, methinks.

I'm not even going to mention "Selena Gomez fiddles with something in the Verizon Wireless store"...

 
Carol Wilson
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Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
12/3/2013 | 8:50:39 AM
Re: Google Glass half empty
Animated penguins? I'm there. 
msilbey
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msilbey,
User Rank: Blogger
12/3/2013 | 11:18:29 AM
Re: Google Glass half empty
All joking aside, the Comcast lobby show is pretty awesome. The first time I walked in to the then-new HQ was when they were just launching the lobby effects. I thought the image of a person above the information desk was actually a virtual assistant I was supposed to talk to. Then I think the person started dancing. Anyway, it's a lot of fun to watch.
Carol Wilson
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Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
12/3/2013 | 11:31:58 AM
Re: Google Glass half empty
I actually wasn't joking - it sounds like a reason to visit Philly.
DOShea
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DOShea,
User Rank: Blogger
12/3/2013 | 8:16:46 PM
Re: Google Glass half empty
It certainly sounds like Comcast is putting some energy and dollars behind this effort. I'll be even more impressed when they take this kind of retail approach to more markets.
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
12/4/2013 | 7:33:59 AM
Re: Google Glass half empty
I'm really curious to try Google Glass, too, but I agree that it is one Google product that may always be relegated to a select few super-nerds or "glassholes" as they've been called. 
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