Rumors of Google retail stores opening in major cities across the United States were dashed and directly denied by the chief of Google’s Android ecosystem, who met with reporters at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, Spain.
“Google has no plans and we have nothing to announce,” Andy Rubin, who heads up the Android initiative, said at the event, according to a Feb. 26 report by The Wall Street Journal’s AllThingsD.
Rubin said Google doesn’t really need its own retail effort, since consumers often get key product information online without having to see it in brick-and-mortar stores, he told AllThingsD. “They don’t have to go in the store and feel it anymore,” he said.
And besides, he said, Google’s devices so far are still relatively new to the marketplace and haven’t rooted enough to need physical displays. “For Nexus, I don’t think the program is far enough along to think about the necessity of having these things in a retail store.”
Rubin’s comments quash rumors that had surfaced last week when the blog 9to5google.com reported that it had an “extremely reliable source” who said that Google was planning to launch a series of retail stores in the U.S. where it would sell many of its Android devices just in time for the Christmas holiday season.
The 9to5google.com article claimed that the stores would be built and opened to get new Google Nexus, Chrome, and especially upcoming products into the hands of prospective customers so they could try them out, just like consumers can do with Apple and Microsoft products in stores run by those companies.
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 BestBuy.com Website. Google also sells such products today in some 50 PCWorld/Dixon stores in the United Kingdom, according to 9to5google.
Google had recently posted a job listing for a software engineer to help develop retail point-of-sale systems, according to 9to5google.com. The blog also had reported that the idea for the proposed stand-alone product stores came as Google began its plans to market its still-in-development Google Glass project.
Apple is one of Google’s key competitors that has had a successful history with running its own chain of stores to sell its own products.
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 AppleInsider.com.
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 would surely be a motivating factor in the company’s long-term goals for any kind of retail strategy. In the third quarter of 2012, Android was loaded on 75 percent of the 181.1 million smartphones that shipped around the world, according to research by IDC. That market share was five times the 14.9 percent share of Apple’s iOS for the same period.
The IDC report shows remarkable progress for the four-year-old Android OS against competition that includes the still-strong popularity of Apple iOS, a drastically smaller BlackBerry market, Microsoft’s multiple Windows Phone efforts and the rest of a straggling field.
Android was on 136 million smartphones shipped in the quarter, compared with 26.9 million smartphones shipped by Apple, according to the report. For Android, that was a 91.5 percent year-over-year jump from the 71 million Android smartphones shipped in the same quarter one year ago.
Android use has been going through the roof worldwide. In fact, Android hit 500 million device activations overall in mid-September of 2012, just as Apple’s latest iPhone 5 was about to launch.
The U.S. market for feature-rich smartphones is still expanding at a rapid clip, with two-thirds of new mobile phone buyers opting for devices that can do far more than their old-style flip phones, according to a July 2012 study from Nielsen.