American business is filled with hard-fought rivalries. Ford ( F) versus General Motors ( GM). United Air Lines ( UAUA) versus American Airlines ( AMR). Apple ( AAPL) versus Microsoft ( MSFT). Coca-Cola ( KO) and PepsiCo ( PEP) have been battling it out in the beverage industry for decades. No sooner does one come up with a winning new product, such as energy drinks or vitamin-enhanced water, than the other swoops in with its own version. One might briefly pull ahead in sales or buzz, but the other is always close behind, ready to snatch the lead. Competition has forced the companies to stay sharp and on top of consumers' tastes. If you're a small business owner who fights for customers with one competitor, consider yourself lucky. A worthy opponent can be a great motivator. That lesson was reflected in Coca-Cola and Pepsi's first-quarter earnings results this week. Pepsi seemed to pull ahead, reporting net income that was down slightly at $1.12 billion compared with $1.15 billion a year ago. Coca-Cola's profit fell 10% to $1.36 billion from $1.51 billion because of restructuring costs and writedowns. Pepsi also announced plans to take control of its two biggest bottlers, a move that could smooth distribution and boost its bottom line. The company has offered to pay $6 billion for majority stakes in Pepsi Bottling Group ( PBG) and PepsiAmericas ( PAS). The company already owns 33% and 43% of the companies, respectively. Coca-Cola and Pepsi spun off their bottlers in the 1980s and 1990s. The arrangement separated the companies' pricing roles, allowing the syrup makers to arrange exclusive marketing deals with merchants while the bottlers try to profit from selling cases.