Reports: Google Retail Stores on the Horizon?

Think it’s far-fetched that retail stores from Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Samsung one day might all be lined up in a neighborhood near you? According to reports, Google may be the next IT biggie to open its own outlets, by the end of this year joining recent convert Samsung along with Microsoft’s growing retail presence among those looking to capture some of Apple’s astronomical store results.

The big question, of course: Is retail the new battleground in Google’s heated competition with Apple? And, will Motorola Mobility be a player in Google retail stores?

A 9to5Google account, also picked up by other outlets, cited sources who offered that Google is blueprinting a series of standalone retail outlets in the United States, with openings targeted for the holiday season in large metropolitan areas. Google execs apparently have bought off on a strategy to use a hands-on approach to gain more consumer customers for its Nexus smartphones and tablets and Chromebooks, and perhaps for its impending Google Glass project. Google is convinced that regular Janes and Joes (as opposed to IT-types) won’t buy the glasses, said to be priced at $500 to $1,000, without trying them out first.

The impetus for the Google retail store report may have come from a planning application the search giant filed for a 1,323-square-foot space near its European base in Dublin to sell “Google merchandise,” according to a report last week in Bloomberg Businessweek, which noted also the application was approved Jan. 23. Google officials responded by saying, “We’ve not made any decisions, it’s simply a planning application.”

Google already sells branded merchandise to employees from a store located at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters that’s not open to the public. It also operates Chrome stores-within-stores at Best Buy outlets in the United States and some 50 Dixon's stores in the United Kingdom. Those stores are tasked with educating customers on Chromebooks rather than pushing sales, as detailed here, inasmuch as Best Buy and Dixon’s handle the transactions. The difference with the rumored Google retail outlets, however, is they will operate independently and make sales directly to customers.

Featuring Chromebooks at a retail stores may make sense for Google. The cloud-based notebooks quietly are making some noticeable inroads, with Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) recently joining Acer, Samsung and Lenovo as leading PC makers with a toe or two in on the platform.

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