Google is building its own North American chain of retail stores and plans to have the first ones open at the end of 2013 in time for the holiday season, according to recent reports.
9to5 Google says that according to "an extremely reliable source," the first flagship stores will be opening in major metropolitan areas before December in order to get their growing product range in front of consumers for hands-on demonstrations.
Current Google devices include its Chromebook computers and Nexus tablets and smartphones. However, they will soon be joined by the X-Phone, the first smartphone that Google will have built from the ground up, and of course its much-trumpeted Google Glass augmented reality headset.
It may seem strange that a company that, more than any other, has helped to shape and define the web is looking to such an old-fashioned way of selling its products and services. But as Apple CEO Tim Cook pointed out in his address at the Goldman Sachs investor conference last week, Apple's retail footprint has been crucial in educating potential customers as to the benefits of new products. "One of the things that's not understood that well about the stores is that I don't think we would have been nearly as successful in the iPad as an example if it weren't for our stores," said Cook.
Google clearly believes that the same approach will be crucial to promoting its Google Glass technology in particular. Very few people would be prepared to part with $1,000+ based on an online image and a couple of paragraphs of text.
The stores will also give Google a great opportunity to showcase its services, such as wireless payments and its Google Wallet system.
Microsoft has recently ramped up its own retail operations, planning to open a further five US stores before this summer as well as expand the chain overseas with a first European store, in the hopes of educating its own customer base as to the benefits of its Surface tablet/notebook devices.