Google Gadget Stores to Open Just for Holiday Shopping

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-11-18
Google Chromecast

Google Gadget Stores to Open Just for Holiday Shopping

Google is opening six temporary stores around the United States to showcase its latest high-tech gadgets, just in time for the Christmas holiday season.

The stores will be filled with Nexus 7 tablets, the latest Chromebooks, the Chromecast video dongle and more so that shoppers can check out the products and place online orders on the spot, according to a special Winter Wonderlab Website set up by Google.

"Play, Create, Chill," the company tells shoppers on the site. "This holiday season, you're invited to the Winter Wonderlab presented by Google. Check out new gadgets like the Nexus 7, make a slow motion video in the giant snow globe, or just escape the holiday hustle with endless games,
music, and videos."

The site is a "fun and interactive way for the public to experience all of Google’s gadgets," a spokesman said.

The special shopping areas are slated for six locations:

--New York City's Bryant Park, 41 W. 40th St., where the city hosts its annual holiday Winter Village (the store will be open from Nov. 16 through Dec. 22);

--Annapolis, Md., near Washington D.C., at the Westfield Annapolis mall, first level, West Atrium near Crate & Barrel and Adidas;

--Aurora, Ill., near Chicago, on the first level of the Westfield Fox Valley mall in Center Court near Victoria's Secret;

--Canoga Park, Calif., near Los Angeles, at the Westfield Topanga mall, first level, in the Sears Court near the Cheesecake Factory; 

--Paramus, N.J., at Westfield Garden State Plaza in the first level in the Lord & Taylor Court near Ann Taylor Loft; and

--Roseville, Calif., near Sacramento, at the Westfield Galleria at Roseville, in the first level in the Sears Court near The Body Shop.

Also featured are human-sized snow globes (where visitors can be photographed inside with their friends), according to Google. Participants can also create slow-motion videos that they can store and take with them for free.

All of the products featured in the Winter Wonderlabs will be available for ordering online right in the temporary stores, which appear to be metal-framed tents with lockable doors and other facilities.

The stores were rumored in February 2013, according to a report at that time by

"An extremely reliable source has confirmed to us that Google is in the process of building stand-alone retail stores in the U.S. and hopes to have the first flagship Google Stores open for the holidays in major metropolitan areas," the post reported. "The mission of the stores is to get new Google Nexus, Chrome, and especially upcoming products into the hands of prospective customers. Google feels right now that many potential customers need to get hands-on experience with its products before they are willing to purchase. Google competitors Apple and Microsoft both have retail outlets where customers can try before they buy."

The stores, which will certainly compete with Apple retail stores and traditional electronics retailers such as Best Buy and h.h.gregg, will allow Google to feature its own products without any distractions. Google does already sell some of its products, such as Chromebooks and Android phones and tablets, inside many Best Buy stores across the nation and on the Website. Apple, one of Google's key competitors, has a successful history running its own chain of stores to sell its own products.

Google's Gadget Stores to Open Just for Holiday Shopping

Apple opened its first two Apple Stores May 19, 2001, and now operates some 390 stores, including 28 that are outside the United States, according to a report from

Microsoft also opened some of its own stores starting in 2009; they were strategically located in many cases near Apple Stores, according to a previous eWEEK report. The stores are located in dozens of cities across the United States and Canada.

The growth of Google's Android mobile operating system platform is surely a motivating factor in the company's long-term goals for any kind of retail strategy.

Earlier this month, Google acknowledged that it is planning to use a barge it is building in San Francisco Bay as "an interactive space where people can learn about new technology."

Since late October, when the presence of two Google barges at opposite ends of the nation was first reported all over the Internet, the company has been very quiet about their intent. That, of course, inspired a flurry of attention and guesswork by pundits, news reporters and local officials about the barges. The barge Google is referring to in its statement is in San Francisco Bay, while a second barge in Maine's Portland Harbor apparently is not being discussed so far by Google.

Heading the list of possible uses for the large floating platforms so far have been ideas such as floating, attention-gaining Google Glass stores or the locations for remote data centers that could be floated wherever they are needed.

The floating Glass stores might be the best fit for some kind of "interactive space where people can learn about new technology," as described by Google.

In San Francisco, KPIX TV 5 has been reporting that the four-story-tall collection of shipping containers is being created as a "floating marketing center, a kind of giant Apple store … for Google Glass," according to an Oct. 25 story. That report is in contrast to other theories about Google's plans, including that the barges are homes for data centers. KPIX reported that "Google hopes to tow the completed structure from [the former Navy base at] Treasure Island across the Bay to San Francisco's Fort Mason, where it would be anchored and open to the public."

In the meantime, though, work has stopped on that plan because it turned out that Google didn't have a needed permit to build and float such a facility, according to the TV station. "Google has spent millions on this," a source close to the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission told KPIX. "But they can't park this barge on the waterfront without a permit, and they don't have one."

Google Glass, the company's vision for an eyewear-mounted computer, has been a topic of conversation among techies since news of it first arrived in 2012. The first early Google Glass units began shipping in April 2013 to developers who signed up at the June 2012 Google I/O conference to buy a set for $1,500 for testing and development. It was the hit of the conference, and Glass units for consumers are slated for release by the end of this year, according to an earlier Google report.

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