Now that Andy Rubin himself has officially snubbed what were apparently rather strong rumors of Google opening its own retail stores in the US, there's a lot of humdrum floating around about whether or not a Google Store would actually make sense.
On the one hand, with its increasing arsenal of hardware products on the Play Store, Google definitely has a wide enough selection of toys to at least give a standalone brick and mortar location (or two) a shot. Nexus phones, tablets, Chromebooks (along with accessories for all those devices), Play Store gift cards, and opportunities to sign up for premium Google services (eg, more Google Drive space) could really open up a lot more people to the idea that Google isn't just about search, email, and maps. And to reiterate the point literally every other tech journalist in existence has made, it would give consumers a chance to "feel" the hardware.
However, there are a lot of other considerations to take into account here. If Google were to sell Nexus phones at its own stores, for example, how would people go about acquiring service? Would Google give them an option to sign up for service in store, or would they have to go to a second location (eg, AT&T or T-Mobile)? The latter could be very off-putting to prospective buyers.
What about customer support? I can guarantee that consumers would expect Google to accept warranty claims and troubleshoot problems in-store, and that would require a whole new support infrastructure. It's also been suggested by some that these stores could be little more than "offline showrooms" (products would be shipped to customers, not physically stocked), and while that may sound futuristic to us, the tech-inclined, average brick-and-mortar 'folk would almost certainly shun such a system.
Microsoft's been giving its first retail locations a go in the last year, and I've visited one in Los Angeles on a couple of occasions. While it's never been empty, the foot traffic is far from that which Apple's retail stores enjoy, and the number of purchases actually happening seems to be a lot lighter, as well. It's mostly a novelty to gawk at, frankly.
But Google needs regular people to gawk at its products - because so few of those people know that they exist. The question is, would building stores make a real difference in that regard? Or would a step into the retail space set up Google for expectations (read: Apple's retail model) that it almost certainly will never meet, dooming it to failure?
I admit, the idea of a Google Store gets the nerd in me really excited. But at the same time, I remember that we're talking about the company that just released an expensive touchscreen laptop with a browser-based OS, and that basically everyone fully expects it to be an utter commercial flop. Maybe Google's not ready for this kind of leap just yet.
Anyway, vote in the poll, and sound off in the comments.