Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is giving catalog search another shot, a move made possible by the more than 30 million iPads Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has sold.
Google Catalogs is a free browsing application for iPads that lets users surf digital versions of catalogs-spanning fashion and apparel, beauty, jewelry, home, kids and gifts categories. Catalogs support for Google's Android "Honeycomb" operating system is not yet available.
Brands already onboard for the iPad application include such high-end retailers as: Anthropologie, Bare Escentuals, Bergdorf Goodman, Crate and Barrel, L.L. Bean, Lands' End, Macy's and Neiman Marcus, as well as Nordstrom, Pottery Barn, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sephora, Sundance, Tea Collection, Urban Outfitters and Williams-Sonoma.
Tablet users will be able to zoom in to get a better view of products, access tags to learn more about an item, including photos and videos of some merchandise. Users may also create collages of products, resizing pictures, changing backgrounds and adding text.
Google is indexing some of its retail partners' catalogs, so users may be able to find some products in a store nearby. At the very least, they will be able to make purchases online.
Some would say shopping is a social endeavor; Google Catalogs is designed to let users email products they like to their "shopping buddies."
Google Catalogs is something of a second take at digitizing catalogs for Google, which, as Search Engine Land noted, shuttered its Catalog Search index in 2009. The fresh application shows how the market has evolved from catalog search on the desktop to mobile devices, such as tablets.
iPad users may download Catalogs from Apple's iTunes App Store. Owners of Google's Android "Honeycomb" operating system will have to wait; Google said the Android version of Catalogs is not ready yet.
The fact that Google has brought an iPad version of a potentially hot commerce search application says a lot about the Android tablet ecosystem, which is believed to have only sold a few million units across a handful of devices such as the Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab.
Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps, who said shopping on e-commerce Websites is one of the more popular uses for tablet computers today, surveyed 2,000 tablet owners and found 47 percent said they shopped for and purchased something on their tablet. An additional 13 percent said they've shopped on their tablet without buying.
That bodes well for Amazon's Android tablet when it launches later this year, said Epps.
Already, consumers love shopping on tablets, and an Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) tablet, reported to launch in October, will undoubtedly take tablet commerce to the next level," Epps wrote in a July 25 blog post.
"One-click buying, unbeatable volumes of customer reviews, recommendations for purchases and Amazon Prime service are some of the innovations Amazon could bring to its tablet, greasing the wheels for more tablet commerce. We predicted in March that Amazon is the most likely iPad disruptor; if the Amazon Android offering launches at a price point $399 or lower Amazon could easily sell millions of tablets in Q4."