Google may be taking a page from Apple as it considers opening brick-and-mortar retail stores, according to reports.
Google is working on plans to open retail stores in the U.S. where the company would sell Google-branded hardware, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
The Journal's unnamed sources did not say where the stores might be located or if they would even open this year.
Google declined to comment on the reports.
"This would be big news for Google customers, workers and the entire retail environment," said Jeff Kagan, an independent industry analyst. "Customers will be able to see, touch and play with all the new smartphones, tablets and whatever comes next."
He added that Apple is a good company to emulate for physical retail stores. Apple stores, known for the "Genius" experts, have become cool places for people to buy the company's popular iPhones and iPads.
"Apple stores are doing very well," said Kagan. "So what's Google look like on the retail front? They will likely follow Apple in some ways and create a new and different experience in other ways. We'll just have to wait and see."
Google's move into the mobile arena, including its purchase of Motorola Mobility, may be one factor pushing the company into the physical retail space. If Google has hardware, like tablets and phones, to sell, as well its software and services, like search Google Docs and Google Maps, then a store could be a smart move.
On top of the phones and tablets, Google also has Chromebook laptops and home entertainment devices to sell. It also has its Google Glass, computerized eye glasses in the works. There are also dozens of smartphones powered with Google's Android mobile operating system.
"Stores would be a good way to showcase what's possible with Google," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. "Heck, my treadmill runs Android... A store could showcase leading-edge products and applications that people may not be aware of.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is [email protected].
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