AT&T Adds Table-Like Information Center to Stores

As part of its effort to recast itself as an innovative retailer, AT&T is putting its cell-phone business on the table — Microsoft’s Surface table, to be exact.

On Thursday, the telecommunications giant became the first to use the table-like touch display in a retail environment. AT&T stores in New York City, Atlanta, San Antonio and San Francisco will feature the 30-inch display. If the pilots go well, there are plans to deploy it across AT&T’s 2,200 retail stores in the U.S.

‘Transform’ Shopping

Both companies said the use of Microsoft Surface “will transform the way consumers shop for mobile devices.” Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices Division, added that Surface can provide shoppers with “an entirely new, unique and personalized shopping experience.”

Microsoft said Surface, previously shown at trade shows, gives users “the opportunity to interact with devices and content in a way that feels familiar.” Interaction can include touch, gestures, or even the recognition of devices placed on its surface. For instance, coverage maps can be displayed at national, state, local or even street levels, and users can scale and move the maps with gestures and touch.

Customers can review the features of a specific mobile device simply by placing it on the table display, which will recognize the model and display a graphical overview of its particulars. Two devices placed side-by-side will result in a display that compares them.

During the pilot phase, Surface can recognize eight AT&T phones and display information, including the LG Shine, the BlackBerry Curve 8310, and the Samsung BlackJack II.

‘Wickedly Cool’

Even before customers get used to this new form of retailing with Surface, new features are being planned. The companies said in the future customers will be able to add ringtones, graphics, video and other media or services to their phone by “grabbing” the items with their hands from a menu and “dropping” them into a mobile device that has been placed on the table.

Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, said he’s also heard that there are plans for Surface to recognize your individual phone, not just the model. Surface, he said, “is wickedly cool,” adding that he’d “love to have one in my house.”

“Wow” factors like these can improve the retail experience, he noted, but the “jury is still out as to whether this will help sales.”

But he noted that, “even if it’s just whiz-bang and sparkles,” it could be worthwhile to AT&T if it simply helps salespeople learn about their company’s products and services. In the U.S., Greengart pointed out, cell phones are often sold through retail outlets, but they are some of the world’s most complicated devices and come with complicated service plans — and salespeople are often not up-to-date about either.

Via Yahoo

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