Microsoft and Its Allies Prepare Windows 8 Marketing Blitz

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Microsoft Corp. plans this weekend to start the marketing blitz for Windows 8, the software company’s dramatic overhaul of its flagship product to catch up to the rise of mobile devices such as Apple Inc.’s iPad.

According to people briefed on the marketing efforts, Microsoft’s ads beginning this weekend will coincide with pre-orders of some computers and tablet devices powered by Windows 8. Those devices are slated to go on sale widely on Oct. 26.

It’s no small push. People with knowledge of the marketing efforts said Microsoft and its hardware allies will have blankets of ads with a cumulative price tag of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Apple Gave Few Phones to Other Retailers

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Apple Inc.’s new iPhone 5 remained a hot item following the sales kickoff Friday, with customers flocking to stores to buy the new handset. But they seemed to have little luck finding the gadget at the Silicon Valley company’s retail partners.

While Apple’s own stores appeared to be selling the new device in large numbers, other retail chains that offered the device had limited quantities from the outset, according to sales staff in stores and other people familiar with the situation.

Shortages have hit Apple partners in the past, but the disparity seemed more pronounced this time.

Boutique Cinemas Veer Toward the Nonprofit Scene

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Some of San Francisco’s boutique movie theaters have found a new way to boost revenue: become a nonprofit or rely on financial support from nonprofit groups.

In recent years, the Roxie Theater has become a nonprofit, while the Balboa Theatre and the Vogue Theatre have started using more dollars from a nonprofit organization for maintenance and upgrades. Of the roughly 20 movie theaters in the city, about half aren’t part of a theater chain, according to theater executives.

Apple Retail Chief Admits Staffing Mistake

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Apple Inc.’s retail boss told employees the company made mistakes with its staffing levels, leading to news reports that the company was cutting employees, according to two people familiar with the matter.

In a communication with store leadership teams, senior vice president of retail, John Browett, who took the reins of Apple’s retail stores in April, said the company had been trying a new staffing formula for its retail stores.

Apple Stores to Match Discounts on iPhones

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The company has begun telling retail employees that they may offer discounts of $49 on the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 4 to customers who cite lower prices from other outlets, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The outlets include stores operated by Target Corp., Best Buy Co. and Sprint Nextel Corp., according to Apple’s communications with employees.

Apple Raising Pay for Retail Workers

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Employees began learning of the raises in face-to-face meetings with managers last week, according to three Apple employees in various regions across the U.S. The raises, which are based on performance, will begin appearing in paychecks around the middle of July, two of these people said.

Employees said they were appreciative of the move, though they considered the raises had been a long time coming. The increased wages, one person said, more accurately reflected Apple’s position as a high-end retailer.

The iPhone Gives ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ a Second Chance

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Old is the new cool in videogames.

Videogame titles that once gathered dust on collectors’ shelves have found a new life on mobile devices such as Apple Inc.’s iPhone, giving companies a cheap way to make money while also helping to promote new software.

It is what Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. did when it was preparing to release the third installment in a popular film-noire series called “Max Payne.” About a month before the new title went on sale, the company released “Max Payne Mobile”—the first game in the series released 11 years ago, reworked to run on smartphones and tablet computers rather than videogame consoles and personal computers.

Microsoft to Offer Xbox Subscriptions at Best Buy, GameStop

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Microsoft Corp. plans to boost the number of outlets offering its subscription plan for the Xbox, an effort to attract more users by lowering upfront costs of acquiring the game console.

The company, which had previously only made the offer available through 17 of its own stores, plans to extend its $99 offer—which combines a Xbox 360 and Kinect motion sensor with a two-year service contract—to all U.S. Best Buy Co. stores and a “select” grouping of GameStop Corp. stores.

Microsoft said it still regards the program as a pilot, adding that the stores will offer the deals to a limited number of users for a short period. If there is enough interest in the program, it may once again expand, the company said.