SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Microsoft Corp. opened its first retail store on Thursday to hundreds of people who waited as long as 12 hours to get freebies and to see if the place is as cool as it was hyped to be.
Eager customers cheered as a giant white curtain dropped from the front of the Scottsdale store, revealing a big, bright and airy space lined with giant screens displaying popular video games such as Rock Band and Halo in the "gaming zone," where shoppers can test the products.
Employees jumped up and down and high-fived customers as they ran in the store to get gift bags and browse among laptops, personal computers, cellular phones and third-party software set up on big cedar tables.
Michelle Armstrong, a 20-year-old in pajama pants who slept outside the Scottsdale Fashion Square mall to be among the first in the store, said she was a bit disappointed in the gift bags, which included a $25 gift certificate, chapstick, mints, a bottle of water and tickets to an Ashley Tisdale concert at the store later in the day.
"I heard they'd be worth between $500 and $1,500, but I really did want to see the store, so it's not a total loss," she said. "I think it looks really cool. When they dropped the curtain, I was really impressed."
Susan Solliday, 49, went to the store just to get the goodie bag but ended up buying a black leather laptop case and an Xbox 360 for her 11-year-old son Brad, who was with her.
"I think it's about time Microsoft did something like this," Solliday said.
Brad said he thought the store was "really cool."
"Most stores will say to me, 'Don't touch that,"' he said. "Here you can play the games."
Kaelin Jacobson, a 20-year-old Web programmer, said he came to the store's opening to give Microsoft "one last shot," adding that he's had a lot of problems with Vista, the last edition of Windows.
Jacobson, who was carrying an Apple laptop, said he has to use Windows for his job and that Microsoft has an uphill battle to match its biggest competitor's sleek and popular stores. "I want a no-hassle retail experience like Apple," he said.
Carol Castellano, 50, sat with two store workers for hours as they set up a laptop she bought with all the bells and whistles, including Windows 7. A store worker said the process should ideally take no more than 15 minutes.
"I understand it's the first day, but I'm a little disappointed in how long it's taking," Castellano said. "They should have been more prepared."
Her sister's buzz wasn't killed.
"I'm so excited!" Darr Tillman yelled as she slapped Castellano's leg. "We've got to get you on Skype and Facebook!"
The Microsoft store's opening coincided with the launch of Windows 7. Microsoft is hoping for a fresh start after a bad reception for Vista.
Kevin Turner, the company's chief operating officer, mingled and joked with the crowd at the opening, calling it "a magical day for Microsoft."
He said Microsoft stores will stand out from Apple's stores by developing deeper customer connections.
"We're not looking for an encounter, we're looking for a deep-seeded relationship so we can truly connect with their needs and help illuminate the magic of software and the value of the technology," he said.
Microsoft plans to open a second store in Mission Viejo, Calif., on Oct. 29.