Microsoft opened its first flagship store in Europe, where you can drive a McLaren Senna and play the latest Xbox games

MicrosoftCourtesy of Microsoft

  • Microsoft will open a store in London on Thursday, its first flagship retail outlet in Europe.
  • Business Insider had an early peek around the store before it opens doors to customers.
  • The store places a strong emphasis on providing an experience; customers can come and test its latest technology and play Xbox video games.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Microsoft is officially making its mark on the London retail scene.

On Thursday, the software turned hardware giant will lift the curtain on its Oxford Circus store. It is the company's first flagship retail outlet in Europe.

Business Insider took an early peek around the store. Here's what we found:

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Microsoft’s new store is located in one of the busiest shopping areas of London, just meters away from Apple's London flagship.

Microsoft’s new store is located in one of the busiest shopping areas of London, just meters away from Apple's London flagship.

We visited the store on Tuesday, two days before it opens doors to the public.

This is Microsoft's first store in Europe. And while it does already have outlets in the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Australia, it's retail presence overall is lacking when compared to Apple.

This is Microsoft's first store in Europe. And while it does already have outlets in the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Australia, it's retail presence overall is lacking when compared to Apple.

This is because Microsoft originally made its name on its software services such as Windows and Office.

This is because Microsoft originally made its name on its software services such as Windows and Office.

But when it ventured into hardware products such as Surface tablets and laptops, brick and mortar retail became a more realistic possibility.

It makes sense, therefore, that these were front and center of the store when we walked in.

It makes sense, therefore, that these were front and center of the store when we walked in.

The ground floor space is fairly minimalist, and in that way, reminiscent of an Apple store.

The ground floor space is fairly minimalist, and in that way, reminiscent of an Apple store.

But there was definitely more of a focus on offering an experience versus simply making a sale.

But there was definitely more of a focus on offering an experience versus simply making a sale.

This was well evidenced by the McLaren Senna racing car at the back of the store.

The car is fitted with a model simulator, which brings the Forza Motorsport 7 Microsoft game to life.

And if racing driver Bruno Senna (nephew of the late Ayrton Senna) is anything to go by, this is a highly realistic experience, according to our tour guide.

Before we headed up the large spiraled staircase, John Carter – the newly appointed store manager – pointed out a click and collect service where busy customers who aren't here for the experience, can come in and collect internet orders or book in for the repair service.

Before we headed up the large spiraled staircase, John Carter – the newly appointed store manager – pointed out a click and collect service where busy customers who aren't here for the experience, can come in and collect internet orders or book in for the repair service.

Next, we headed upstairs to the first floor where we found more Surface laptops on display as well as accessories such as headphones and keyboards.

Next, we headed upstairs to the first floor where we found more Surface laptops on display as well as accessories such as headphones and keyboards.

This floor was also home to its “Answer Desk" – a counter where customers can get support on how to work their devices or schedule repairs. The device doesn't need to have been bought from Microsoft directly to be eligible for these services.

This floor was also home to its “Answer Desk" – a counter where customers can get support on how to work their devices or schedule repairs. The device doesn't need to have been bought from Microsoft directly to be eligible for these services.

This is clearly taking inspiration from Apple's Genius Bar.

The on-site laptop personalization service is another reason to come to this store...

The on-site laptop personalization service is another reason to come to this store...

...as are the limited edition Liberty of London printed laptops.

...as are the limited edition Liberty of London printed laptops.

The print used here is taken from Liberty's archives from 1975, the year Microsoft that was founded.

These laptops are one-offs, however. Carter said that customers will be able to bid for these pieces and the money will be donated to charity.

The first floor is also home to its “Community Theatre," a classroom-style area where Microsoft will hold free workshops for kids and parents.

The first floor is also home to its “Community Theatre," a classroom-style area where Microsoft will hold free workshops for kids and parents.

During summer vacation, these workshops will take place every day. While Microsoft stresses that this is a way to bring the "community" in, it's also a clever way to get kids engaged with Microsoft devices at an early age.

Then there's the gaming center. This is the largest gaming area of all Microsoft's stores, Kelly Soligon, general manager of Microsoft Stores, told Business Insider.

Then there's the gaming center. This is the largest gaming area of all Microsoft's stores, Kelly Soligon, general manager of Microsoft Stores, told Business Insider.

This brightly lit hallway led through to a large dark room where around 15 gaming stations were set up. Customers can come in and compete against each other on games such as Minecraft – a video game that Microsoft bought for $2.5 billion in 2014.

There was a Thronos gaming chair here too. This is a first for Europe, according to Microsoft. This machine is known among avid gamers as the "God of gaming chairs" offering a fully immersive gaming experience.

There was a Thronos gaming chair here too. This is a first for Europe, according to Microsoft. This machine is known among avid gamers as the "God of gaming chairs" offering a fully immersive gaming experience.

Source: The Verge

Despite calls from analysts and shareholders to spin or sell off its Xbox gaming division, Microsoft leadership has always insisted that it is a core part of its business. Moreover, management has previously said that it is a good way to attract younger players to the Windows brand.

Despite calls from analysts and shareholders to spin or sell off its Xbox gaming division, Microsoft leadership has always insisted that it is a core part of its business. Moreover, management has previously said that it is a good way to attract younger players to the Windows brand.

Source: Technobuffalo

Finally, we headed up to the top floor. This area is devoted to serving Microsoft's business customers and is not open to the public.

Finally, we headed up to the top floor. This area is devoted to serving Microsoft's business customers and is not open to the public.

This floor has a selection of meeting and conference rooms where companies can come in and meet the commercial sales team for demonstrations and training.

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