Microsoft shop set to challenge Apple outlets

MICROSOFT is set to open its first-ever store in the next few days, as the software maker takes its first step to match rival Apple&rsquo;s successful venture into retail.<br /><br />Expectations are running high that the store, in an upscale Arizona city, will open this week, to coincide with the launch of Microsoft&rsquo;s Windows 7 operating system. Windows 7 is set to be launched on Thursday.<br /><br />Microsoft has so far been coy about its retail plans and a company spokeswoman would not officially pin down an opening date beyond &ldquo;the fall&rdquo;.<br /><br />Although the site is still boarded up, a peek through an open door reveals lights and shelving all ready for customers and a large, flat-screen display running along the walls.<br /><br />Chief executive Steve Ballmer teased reporters on Friday by saying the opening date was imminent, but he would not commit to a date.<br /><br />Microsoft unveiled its plan to open stores in February.