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Microsoft hosted a live Web meeting Feb. 7 to clear up the vista on its retail strategy to reach small and midsize businesses and how it relates to SMB VARs, but the end result was a smudgy view.

Eric Ligman, senior manager of community engagement on Redmond’s U.S. Small Business Team, clearly spelled out Microsoft’s stated goals and intentions during the session, “Microsoft’s Retail Strategy and what does it mean for Small Business Specialists?”, but in the end he had few specifics and the result was a blurry view.

Microsoft has stated it expects to turn the foot traffic of small business consumers shopping at retail outlets into services and implementation business for SBSes.

It has engaged retailers CompUSA and Best Buy, which now sell Small Business Server and Volume Licenses of Vista and Office 2007 (CompUSA only for now), and the goal is to encourage customers to go up the value chain, where VARs will fill the need.

“The amount of impressions retailers make easily rivals the busiest Web sites,” Ligman said.

But that’s where Microsoft draws the blinds.

Microsoft hasn’t publicly spoken about how it intends to turn that foot traffic into opportunities for SBS VARs.

Of even more concern to the VAR community, many of the retailers Microsoft is engaging with, CompUSA, Best Buy and Staples most notably, are launching services divisions of their own.

Now, many of those retailers use local VARs to fulfill services sold through their outlets and Web sites, and Ligman himself alluded to buying granite countertops at Lowe’s and having them installed by a carpenter, but VARs responding to the Webcast on one VAR’s own blog objected to being cast as “carpet installers.”

The stated purpose of the meeting, according Microsoft’s Small Business Community Blog, was to clear up questions and concerns on the issue, but the session only served to shed more light on a grimy window.

Microsoft would do well to put a little Windex to work on its messaging.