updated 07:35 pm EDT, Fri September 30, 2011
Google dips into retail with mini store
Google drew more comparisons to Apple again on Friday after it opened its first retail presence in the UK. The store-within-a-store, located in the PC World in London's electronics-friendly Tottenham Court Road, exists primarily to sell Chromebooks. The search firm's UK consumer marketing head Arvind Desikan told the London Evening Standard that it was an acknowledgment retail sales were key to selling notebooks, especially for those using a new platform like Chrome OS.
"We found anecdotally that when people tried the device and played with it, that made a huge difference to their understanding of what the Chromebook is all about," he said. "People will be able to go in and have a play with the devices. We want to see whether people understand what this device is all about and monitor their reaction when they try it out."
The location partly mimics the typical Apple strategy, where users get fully functional demo systems and staff specially trained to help them through the process.
Google plans to expand the mini-stores to other areas quickly. Another location is due in Essex a week later and will be followed by more worldwide in the months ahead. Desikan didn't say if Google would ever open its own fully independent store or if it would expand to include Android. The London store is expected to ramp down after Christmas and is considered an experiment.
The company has never said how well Chromebooks have sold, although they're only thought to be modestly successful. Google mostly sells Chromebooks online and, similar to the problems it faced with the Nexus One, has little exposure outside of the technically-savvy audience that knows Chrome OS exists. Retail would give it more permanent exposure.
Its venture is coming more than a decade after Apple started its own stores and roughly two years after Microsoft outlined its first retail plans. Google isn't committing as deeply as the others but may be hoping to foster the same kind of public recognition beyond just any one product.