Steve Ballmer Microsoft already has a busy week ahead, with Windows 7 launching on Thursday. But it seems Microsoft is also opening its first retail store on the same day as its new operating system.

Microsoft has said officially only that the Microsoft Store will open in the autumn, but as with any good tech rumour, the evidence is quickly thwarting the company's attempts at secrecy. Engadget has adverts from the Arizona Republic newspaper hyping a grand opening at Scottsdale Fashion Square at 10am on October 22 (the same day Windows 7 debuts). To create an Apple Store-like hysteria, Microsoft is reportedly giving away gift bags to the first 1,000 visitors. Later on, the pop singer Ashley Tisdale will perform.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a subtler approach is in order, with Microsoft "planning to quietly take the wraps off" the store "on or within days of the launch of the new operating system", according to an unnamed source.

So why all the secrecy on Microsoft's end? I'd think the company would want all the buzz it can get this week, especially with Apple running an aggressive ad campaign to steal the spotlight.

It might be because, like many tech watchers, Microsoft isn't really sure how this retail store idea is going to pan out. Last week, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said the plan is "to open a couple of stores, try to improve, open a couple more stores". Sure, Microsoft may be mimicking the Apple Store in aesthetics, and even reportedly hiring away some employees, but it's not duplicating Apple's cockiness.

Still, Microsoft needs a big bang with its first retail store, and it needs to happen on Windows 7 launch day. Even though only one location is set to open, the resulting buzz will point not just to the operating system itself, but to all the new computers running it. And that's really the whole point of the store in the first place.

See also:

Windows 7: welcome to the hype extravaganza

Windows 7 review

Windows 7 PC reviews

Windows 7 forum

PC World