It seems that Microsoft is planning to open some retail stores in “upscale” shopping malls this fall. They will be located within a few hundred feet of existing Apple stores. They will feature Microsoft flagship products such as Windows 7 and Microsoft Office, branded hardware products like the Zune media player and presumably some computers running the Windows OS. Shopping mall stores are not necessarily profitable by themselves but they do stimulate brand recognition and generate sales for the companies in some way. I saw my first iPod Touch in a Tampa area Apple store and eventually bought one in a Wal~Mart.
On the other hand, “dollar” stores are profitable. Consumers buy basic commodities at these stores and pay minimal prices. Some of these stores are in shopping malls and many are in strip malls.
How do you buy your FOSS software? Of course you simply download some of it and pay your ISP for the privilege. Or you might buy a magazine at a bookstore with a DVD insert containing the software you desire. The fact is that although the FOSS software is free, there is truly no cost-free way of getting it. The FOSS GPL license does not prohibit you from selling the software!!
And so I envision a free software shop. It might not be located in the “upscale” mall with the Apple and Microsoft stores but it would be within walking distance in a nearby strip mall. Inside the store the consumer will find numerous live CDs with recent Linux distros priced at about $2.99 to cover the cost of making the disc and sticking a label on it. There would be some magazines featuring free software like Linux Format and PC Format. There could be some generic mp3 players configurable by “drag and drop” or open source music managers. Other possibilities are apparent but there would not be any products trademarked by either Microsoft or Apple.
Would such a store be profitable? Would you shop there? I would!!