Computer software giant Microsoft has announced plans to open its own stores, in a bid to increase competition against Apple and at a time when many other retailers are struggling in the economic downturn.

Microsoft plans to sell computers installed with Microsoft software and other products, Microsoft chief operating officer Kevin Turner said.

We're ... working hard to transform the PC and Microsoft buying experience at retail ... so that it's clear, simple and straightforward for consumers everywhere, Turner said late Thursday in a statement.

This will not be the first time Microsoft enters the retail market, it had one retail outlet, at the San Francisco Metreon mall back in the 1990's. However, it never expanded the effort and closed that location in November 2001.

The stores will promote new operating system Windows 7 and updates of Windows Live and Windows Mobile. It was not confirmed the number of stores to be opened.

Ex-Wal-Mart executive David Porter will head the new retail division. Porter will devise a strategy outlining when the stores would be launched and where their locations will be.

The company's rival Apple already has high-profile stores located around the world.

The announcement comes after Microsoft launched a $300 million advertising campaign last fall in a bid to revive its Windows Vista operating system, which was widely criticized for being too slow.