Massucci's Take: Tech war is on as Microsoft goes Burger King on Apple

Covering tech has become more fun of late, as Apple (AAPL) pulled the iTunes plug on Palm Pre users, Microsoft Bing-ed Google (GOOG) and Yahoo (YHOO), Apple supposedly asked Microsoft to stop their 'PCs are cheaper' ads, and Microsoft takes on Google with a free version of Office. In tech, missiles are being fired almost every day.

Now the latest salvo: according to our friends at Engadget, Microsoft (MSFT) will open stores right next to Apple's stores later this year. Genius. (No pun intended to Apple's Genius Bar.) This is what Burger King (BKC) did years ago to McDonald's (MCD). They'd open up right next door or across the street and people would gape and say, 'How can they do that?' Sure it was gauche. It seems to have worked, though, for the king of burgers. Now Microsoft is pulling the same move on Apple.
The beauty of Burger King's tactic in the burger wars was that McDonald's would spend millions on population surveys, growth forecasts, market research, and wisely choose their locations. (Few failed for that reason.) A few years later, up would plop Burger King within eyesight of the McDonald's. You know McDonald's was angry.

To be clear, I have no special love for Burger King (though I have to say than their flame-broiled burgers rock vs. McDonald's easy-listening fried burgers). McDonald's makes the world's greatest artery-clogging fries, hands down. For what it's worth, Wendy's Frosty is tops in the shake category. When I was a kid, on occasion, I would go from one to the next, creating a meal of a Whopper Jr., McDonald's fries, Wendy's frosty. Hey, don't knock it 'til you've tried it.

It was easy to hit all three because McD's and BK were across the street from each other on U.S. 441 in South Florida, while Wendy's was about a quarter of a mile down the same road. It was a clever strategy by Burger King to swoop in next to a McDonald's then, and just as smart now for Microsoft to make the same move on Apple Stores.

Microsoft isn't messing around. This isn't Gateway opening stores that would later flop; this is deep-pocketed Microsoft showing its might, and commitment to retail. Kevin Turner, chief operating officer at the software maker said his company is "in the game for the long term," and has hired a retail team, the Associated Press reported. Wonder if that retail team is doing what Burger King did?

Microsoft hired a 25-year Wal-Mart (WMT) veteran in February to lead the effort, but has said little since, the AP reported. Here's how the internal conversation must have gone: Microsoft's retail boss: "So where should we open our first store?" Underling: "How about right here, next to the Apple Store?" Boss: "Perfect. Order lunch."

The beauty of this is it keeps the rivalry going, which should equal lower prices for customers. In line with Microsoft's recent ad theme that computer buyers might find a Mac appealing, but wind up buying a non-Mac PC because the price is more appealing. Imagine the new ads from Microsoft showing customers walking out of the Apple store and, yards later, into the Microsoft store.

Wars are good for consumers and bad for companies. The tech war between Apple and Microsoft dates back to around the same time Burger King started buying lots next door to McDonald's. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates taking each other on hasn't been topped in tech since, but Steve Ballmer taking on Jobs may turn out to be just as much fun to observe.,feedConfig,entry&id=576699&pid=576698&uts=1247781945
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Anthony Massucci is a senior writer for DailyFinance. You may follow him on Twitter athianthony.
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