The launch of the iPad mini this weekend got me thinking about Google as a company and what it needs to do to start competing in the hardware market. Common wisdom says that Apple will probably sell two million of the smaller tablets in the first three days of trading and will shift ten million before Christmas.
At the same time, Google's huge smash hit, the Nexus 7, was said to be shifting one million units for the first time ever in October - up from 700,000 the month before. Apple is killing them, despite copying the product and arriving four months later to the market, and it's only one example of Google's problems in the hardware business and it got me thinking about how it is more or less inevitable that we will be seeing Google retail stores before long.
Although Google makes the vast majority of its money from search engines and advertising solutions, it's been making a huge push into mobile with Android and making more of its own phones after they acquired Motorola Mobility earlier this year. Even though it might not feel like it, Google is a hardware company. For example, the Chromebook is selling for about $250 in most countries and has been getting rave reviews. It's an entry-level laptop that runs with Chrome and is made for browsing the web and storing everything in the cloud.
The Nexus range of tablets have been getting some serious traction including the recent news that they are starting to sell close to one million units per month. The reviews have all been stunning and the general feeling is that Google has a small hit on its hands.
If there was a reason why Google should have its own stores, it has to be the Nexus range of phones. They get stunning reviews and are loved by the people who have them because of the pure Android experience. However, only a small portion of people will ever get their hands on them as they are mostly sold online.
You only have to look at the example Apple has set with their 500 odd retail stores around the world that have helped propel them into the most valuable company in the world. Samsung was quick to spot the potential and is in the process of rolling out its stores as well and now Microsoft has joined the party. As you can see from the pictures, Apple has set the standard with large open spaces and staff selling the goods in highly trafficked areas. It is a formula that works and one that Google will have to embrace.
Why Retail Needs To Happen
Google might be shifting tablets, but it's breaking even and trying and get their operating system into the hands of as many people as possible. It's also pretty much at war with the carriers who have it locked in when it comes to phones like the Nexus whereas those same carriers use the iPhone as one of their main selling points. What we are seeing at the moment is a huge battle between Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung to try to win mobile and tablet computer marketing share.
Google is doing well by powering Android, but if it wants to sell more hardware, it's going to have to open retail stores. I personally think that while it has limited experience in the space, it is something that it could learn pretty quickly in the same way Apple has and it would shake the market up even further. The Chromebook, Nexus 7 and the phones are such good products that they need to be seen by more of the general public and the only way to do that is by getting them out there into shops.