Saturday 16 February 2013

Google to take on Apple Store with its own line of retail outlets

Google’s online sales of its Nexus devices hasn’t really been a success, especially when it comes to its Nexus 4 smartphone. The Mountain View company is looking to change all that with its own line of Google retail stores.

9to5Google reports that Google will be building a line of stand-alone retail stores, with the first outlets opening by the end of 2013. Google has a range of products from the Nexus tablets and phones to Chromebooks, but customers have never been able to try out the UI or the device itself before buying them. With retail outlets, Google hopes to remedy this.

This won’t be the first time that Google will have a presence in the retail market. The company does have kiosks in multi-brand retailers in the UK and US. However, these rumoured new stores will be fully run by Google from design to operations.

The website reports that this entry into retail is not sudden. Google wanted to understand how to best allow customers to try the new Google Glass, which will be a high-end device during its first iteration. The price of the Explorer Edition of the glasses, which was handed out to developers was $1,500 (Approx Rs 75,000). Of course, anyone would want to try out the glasses before dropping so much money on a new technology. So Google’s solution is to introduce the product to customers directly through its store.

The 9to5Google report further states: “Along with Glass, Google will have an opportunity to demonstrate other upcoming and Google X projects like driverless cars and mini-drone delivery systems at its stores.”

Of course, there have always been murmurs about Google getting into the retail space a la Apple, its closest competitor in terms of mobile OS platforms. The company was rumoured to be working on a retail outlet in its European headquarters in Dublin. However, late last year Google denied such an effort was underway.

Whether this foray into retail comes a tad late in the game for Google remains to be seen, but it can ride the Android wave with openings in countries where Apple Stores do not have a presence. In India, all Apple products are available through authorised resellers, while only the Nexus 7 is available through official channels. Everything else can only be acquired through the grey market. This is where the Nexus lineup of devices has failed with minimal presence in emerging markets such as India. Of course, a first step in changing this would be bringing movies and music content to the Indian Play Store, before launching brick-and-mortar stores.

Apple recently trademarked its Apple Store design and Google would have seen the sort of rabid frenzy that normally greets the launch of a new Apple product. Perhaps, the company aims to emulate this. Or maybe it will take a completely different route to retail. In any case, the move makes perfect sense, in the light of problems facing shoppers of the Nexus 4 and Nexus 10 on Google’s Play Store.

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