Microsoft shops will be next door to Apple

Microsoft's chief operating office Kevin Turner said today that the company's new retail shops will be opening up "right next door to Apple stores thi

Microsoft's chief operating office Kevin Turner said today that the company's new retail shops will be opening up "right next door to Apple stores this autumn".

Those may be fighting words from the world's biggest software company but you can't helping wondering what exactly Microsoft hopes to gain by offering consumers such a direct comparison.

Microsoft's Gurus - live tech support personnel already dotted throughout American electronics stores - don't look or sound as cool as Apple's impeccably hip Geniuses. And shelves of Xbox software above lines of inconsistently-styled Windows computers can hardly compete with the sleek, matching, droolworthy laptops and phones that Apple pumps out.

Even the stores themselves are unlikely to raise shoppers' pulses: Microsoft has hired a former Wal-Mart suit to oversee the retail roll-out. Expect big-box styling - as seen in Microsoft's Retail Experience Centre concept store above - rather than a tech-boutique ambience.

Good luck shifting those Zunes, Kevin.