When Microsoft ($NASDAQ:MSFT) opened its first two Microsoft Stores in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2009, comparisons to the Apple ($NASDAQ:AAPL) Store concept were inevitable. Wide-open spaces, sparse tables adorned with products to touch and try, and Geniuses — err, "Advisers" — wearing branded t-shirts waiting to ring customers up all combined to make Microsoft stores a clear homage to Apple's successful retail approach.

It's not just the browsing and shopping experience at Microsoft Stores that make them so Apple Store-like. It's their locations, when mapped out and compared to those of Apple stores, that reveal Microsoft's retail strategy.

It goes something like this: Open near an Apple Store.

The map above shows 85 Microsoft stores compared with 274 Apple Stores. While those numbers themselves are lopsided, it's when we isolate Microsoft's location strategy that things become awfully clear.

On average, there is one Apple store within one mile of every Microsoft Store.

Proximity data for the 85 Microsoft stores tracked here shows exactly how Microsoft chooses where to launch new stores. It turns out that for every Microsoft store, there is one Apple Store within a mile. When running the same analysis against Apple stores, there are 0.36 Microsoft stores within one mile of the 274 Apple Stores, on average. 

Exactly 82 out of 85 Microsoft Stores are within 1 mile of an Apple Store

The reason the above average is so high is that almost all of the Microsoft Stores are within a mile of an Apple Store. Of the 85 Microsoft stores, 82 are within one mile of an Apple store.

75 Microsoft Stores are within .5 miles of Every Apple Store

Of the 85 Microsoft Stores, 75 are within a half-mile of an Apple Store. This face becomes evident when looking at a closeup of a high-density area like the Tri-State Area, where shoppers always have the option to head down the street, or a half-mile, to the nearest Microsoft Store.

62 Microsoft Stores are within 0.25 miles of every Apple Store

For those on foot, say, in malls and shopping districts like New York City and Toronto, Microsoft Stores are often just down the block or even across the street. Of the 85 Microsoft Stores tracked here, 62 are within just a quarter-mile of an Apple Store.

 

The strategy, at least so far, for Microsoft Stores is abundantly clear when its locations are compared to those of Apple Stores. It goes something like this: always be an option. For those in the market for a laptop or tablet, for instance, a quick look at an iPad can be followed up by a gander at a Surface tablet. And as we enter the holiday shopping season, being an available option is half the battle.

About the Data: 

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

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