Over the last decade, plenty of technology hardware companies thought it would make sense to open their own retail shops. Sony, Gateway, Palm and Apple all went down that path. Of that list, only Apple has been able to turn those retail stores into something valuable. Gateway was the first, but its retail effort failed miserably
. Sony's retail effort was always based more on the idea that the stores are not
there to sell products, but just to display them. Sony has always admitted that the stores were more about brand and product awareness than sales -- but that's partly because it doesn't want to piss off its channel, so it prices everything quite high in its own stores. Apple doesn't have that problem, as it has total control over its distribution channel and retail pricing. Of course, the difference here is that Apple's stores and products are designed so people actually want
And then there's Palm. Palm used to always be compared to Apple, back in the day. But, that was back in the day when Apple was a struggling computer company. Since Steve Jobs reinvented Apple as being cool again, those comparisons sort of disappeared. Its own retail strategy
was clearly an attempt to copy Apple, but without the cool products (or the cool store design) it never did anything useful for the company. About the only surprise coming out of Palm's decision to shut down its retail stores
is that it took this long to decide to pull the plug.